The RAS is an opportunity for an adaptation strategy working towards a more resilient and sustainable future with integrated Carbon removal and offsetting and geometric scaling potential. R&D of the systems could be done in a network of field testers. Maybe help save a dying Planet too.
1.The biochar kiln system
Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' (KTR)
-alley crops eg.viticulture, agroforestry
Kon-Tiki 'Essential' (KTE)
-stationary kiln in one or many stationary locations

2.Compost system

Johnson-Su compost bioreactor modded and simplified (experimental) with:

-1- A hexagonal vertical star picket formation (driven into the ground) can be made, 6 short Rio rod guides driven into the ground supporting 6 vertical 150mm PVC pipes. Hessian cloth wrapped around the star pickets. Unmilled biochar bottom aquifer added. BMC, manure and biomass filling around the pipes. Pipes removed and the pipe void then filled with unmilled biochar for vertical biochar cores which act as irrigation points for the bioreactor.

Lots of aeration and watering is needed. For eg. 50% BMC, poultry manure, additional biomass and Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) dust could be co-composted. The ratio of ingredients will depend on the microbe, nutrient and mineral profiles of the biochar, manure, loam/soil and plants you want to grow. Normally, it's a ratio of Carbon/Nitrogen @30:1.  Keep in mind that most of the Carbon is locked into the C matrix in the BMC hence a high BMC percentage is possible with additional C in the form of biomass is still needed. The ratio should be optimised with experimental compost trials which I intend to do.

When the composting is complete (after a variable time period) the hessian cloth, star pickets and Rio rods are removed for reuse in additional bioreactors.

Middens can be built around the compost piles after the composting has completed with clayey loam added eg.dug from swales. This material, 'BMC compost and loam' is the updated definition of 'Permafert', which was previously defined as a midden made from loam with biochar added, not necessarily BMC, and just about anything else organic added.


It makes logistical sense to build the bioreactors near the swales, pits, cut 200L drums or whatever your growing system happens to be.


-2- Could use a 'no dig' donut chicken wire structure based on wire mesh resting on 2 logs, kept in the shade, see below.

3.Tree planting holes for trees
Eg. Biomass, fibre, fruits, nuts, medicine et al
4.Square Zai pits with integrated central biochar cores and biochar bottom aquifers
KTE, Pits are built out from the kiln centre in a keyhole fashion.
After digging a Zai pit and berms are made, add unmilled biochar for the aquifer eg.150mm deep
Place a 150mm diameter PVC pipe in the centre of the pit lodged into the bottom biochar aquifer and up to the top pit level.
Add the permafert (25% medium milled biochar) around the central pipe and make a concave shape.
Fill the pipe void with unmilled biochar up to the level of the permafert around the pipe then lift up the pipe to remove it and produce a biochar core.
The shallow/concave pit will concentrate rainfall to the centre of the pit and into the biochar core/aquifer T junction.
Irrigate the central biochar core as required.
Calibrate the central core to a Reotemp 'Moisture Meter' once the first seedlings have sprouted (experimental).


5.Same as above design but Permafert piles with central biochar cores in half of the Zai pits for '3 Sisters' planting

A design for '3 Sisters' (maize, beans and squash) growing. Square Zai pits (built last Spring) updated with central permafert mounds for drainage, central biochar cores linked to bottom biochar aquifers forming a T junction for water wicking and conservation, nutrient reclamation, microbe housing and Carbon removal. Flooding events will concentrate water via the berms in the 'moat' around the mound for outer mound irrigation and additional irrigation as needed via the central biochar cores which will irrigate the inner mound and to an extent fill the bottom aquifer.

6.Circular Zai pits with integrated central biochar cores and biochar bottom aquifers

My preferred Zai pit design, a little bit more earthworks than the square ones but better water distribution and wicking and easy to make consistent berms around the pit.  Depending on the rainfall pattern (which will become more unpredictable with climate change), the berms could be C shaped if too much water is accumulating in the pits and/or the depth of the biochar aquifers could be modified for more (deeper) or less (shallower) water storage. These will be used for my next pit trial over the Summer and Autumn growing 3 different pumpkin varieties (hard-skinned gourds) in 1 metre diameter pits using unmilled biochar from agroforestry waste for the cores and bottom aquifers. I'm using a cross + of 2x1m lengths of thin bamboo screwed together in the centre as a guide for pit building.


Diameter of pit eg.1 metre
Depth of clay
Feedstock used for biochar and size of biochar pieces
Depth of biochar bottom aquifer
Width of vertical biochar core eg.150mm diameter PVC pipe/core
Permafert recipe eg.25% milled biochar in a biochar mineral complex (BMC) et al
Depth of root system of the plants you want to grow which will determine the depth of the permafert
Amount of water needed by the plants during a growing period as it relates to rainfall, water harvesting of the pit, rate of wicking and evaporation
Size of berms
Access to growing area eg. 1 or 2 C shaped berms
Slope of pit
In order to climate proof the growing system, 3 different pit configurations could be built that could adapt to different rainfalls and different plants as needed during the period of climate heating and disruption.


7. The terrace permafert swale, biochar aquifer and biochar core system


8. Mediterranean swale with Permafert and integrated central biochar core and biochar bottom aquifer system

-A pump free and battery free system, which makes me happy as I have broken 4 water pumps.

UPDATE - ditched the bottom aquifer for easier building and decrease the amount of biochar needed. Also, proposing a shallower swale with less width for easier access to plants
Using a Kon-Tiki 'Essential' (KTE) biochar kiln
-A  burn is quenched in the KTE with a water siphon from a header tank  (bore) or rainwater tank plumbed from a shed, house or bore. A 20 litre  bucket from a water vessel eg.IBC can also be used.
-pH adjustment with food grade Phosphoric acid to suit eg.7 is neutral which is good for most plants.
-Leave overnight
-Bucket out as much 'smoke water' as possible to reduce the weight for tipping and use for irrigation or if using an IBC, add the smoke water to that for reuse
-Empty the  kiln
Mill 80% of the biochar in a bucket with sledgehammer or solar  electric mill to particles less than 10mm in size if needed (milled biochar can be used for the Biochar Mineral Complex (BMC) and unmilled biochar (20%) for composting and the vertical biochar cores in the swale
Inoculate the milled biochar in a 2 IBC system for BMC (see the KTE web page), eg. liquid sea kelp (sea minerals and nutrients), microbes eg. Plant & Soil Food, POPUL8 etc., organically produced liquid NPK

Co-compost the BMC with manure eg.poultry, which is full of nutrients and minerals, and additional biomass if available + Enhanced rock weathering (ERW) rock dust eg.basalt (more minerals) in a Johnson-Su or modded Johnson-Su compost bioreactor with possible multiple units operating at once

Once the compost is ready, dig/build one swale at a time, separating the loam for permafert and clay (if it exists) for berms and placed in piles adjacent to and along the length of the swale on the clear side with no swales
Add the compost (50%) to the loam piles (50%) and mix together = permafert! (25% BMC plus unmilled biochar from the bioreactor vertical cores and bottom aquifer = roughly 1/3 total biochar)
Fill the swale up to the ground surface level with permafert from the permafert piles
Water in the permafert if water is available
Add vertical biochar cores 500mm apart using a 150mm Cyclone post hole digger to remove permafert
Fill the void with unmilled biochar
Repeat along the swale
Spread the permafert obtained from the cores along the swale between the cores
Plant cow pea/other Nitrogen fixer along the swale for additional N fixation
Build the clay berms
Start the next swale and repeat
Once cow pea/other Nitrogen fixer is mature and biochar has 'aged', chop at base and drop for mulch
Seeds or seedlings eg.annuals and/or perennials planted directly into swale
Finely milled biochar can be used to cover the seeds in a thin layer, roughly the same depth as the width of the seeds being planted.
Irrigate the biochar cores as needed with 20 litre stainless steel buckets filled up with water or a garden hose (or microdrippers).
A  Reotemp 'Moisture meter' is needed. The meter probe can be inserted into  the base of the cores for moisture measurement and the meter will tell  you when you have reached the optimum moisture level after calibration  to 'healthy plants'.
Optional micro-irrigation with an Unpowered Measured Irrigation Controller.



The above swale system is untested. Anyone willing to experiment with it please contact me so we can share results after I build my experimental system too.

If the quality of the loam/other soil type is higher then less BMC is needed in the permafert and vice versa. In my salad greens trial, 25% BMC seems to be the right amount added to good quality clayey brown loam. The quality could take into account water retention, nutrient retention, mineral retention, soil structure and porosity, cation exchange capacity, soil biome and ultimately fertility (and more).

The biochar cores could be inoculated with additional microbes, either before or after building them. Since the biochar cores are the main irrigation points and would be regularly monitored with a moisture meter, they will always be moist to a variable degree. This could be perfect for microbe housing in the 3D biochar matrix. The system should self-regulate aka if the moisture content is too high in the core, the microbes will enter the permafert and if the permafert becomes too dry they will re-enter the biochar core. The only problem I see is if the pit or swale is flooded for an extended period of time, some microbes might die. The only way I can think of to check this would be taking permafert and biochar core samples before and after extended flooding events, to a lab and comparing the microbe colony numbers.

Samples of the permafert probably need to be taken from time to time after flooding events to check nutrient, mineral and microbe levels and determine if direct top-ups are needed in the swale.

Compost from the Johnson-Su bioreactor/donut chicken wire system could be added to the top of the permafert as a mulch in swale when needed. This will reduce water evaporation/increase water conservation and also enter the biochar matrix within biochar pieces in the permafert providing additional nutrients and minerals for soil biota and plant roots plus providing additional microbes. For interest, check out in google images 'Terra preta de Indio' to get some nice Terra preta 'soil profiles'. The modded idea is that over time the soil is replenished and maintained with additional layers of biochar/compost/permafert/Biochar Mineral Complex (BMC, Professor Stephen Joseph) inputs - or even with Terra preta if that's what you want to make.

BEAM  extract is worth investigating too. Contact Dr Paul Taylor for more information.

If the clay is too deep to access, there's a possibility of making char-crete lined swales which, if made permeable, might retain water over similar time scales to clay. There are recipes on the internet for this.

If using bore water for irrigation, research can be done to determine the effectiveness of the biochar filtering out the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) to an acceptable level for a given plant variety.

Latest photographs

Notes continued


Planted out the '3 Sisters' in 8 of the pits, 4 pits with mystery multi-coloured maize from my friend and borlotti beans and squash and 4 pits with Blue Hopi Maize, Bush bean gourmet delight and squash. I found one pit wasn't draining properly so I didn't plant it out. The other 7 pits. 3 furrows per pit, of Ceylon Spinach, Malabar Red Spinach, Rainbow chard and rocket. I may have to build some thin bamboo trellises for the spinach.

I seeded 3 of my original Permafert swales with zucchini, the other 2 still has Sunchoke tubers.

I also implemented denser plantings this season using direct seeding rather than seedlings, assuming only some of the seeds will germinate and grow - which they did.


Any thoughts about how we can improve the systems please send me a message on the contact page.