Gregory Bafalis, CEO of Aries Clean Energy, has more than thirty years of leadership in the clean technology and energy fields. His experience ranges from Fortune 500 companies to starting his own private equity-backed renewable energy company in Houston, Texas, to running a Silicon Valley clean tech startup in the algae space. In conjunction with the celebration of Earth Day today, Aries Clean Energy announced that its Aries GREEN™ biochar product has earned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Biobased Product label and certification from the International Biochar Institute (IBI). The product is now able to display the USDA label and the IBI Certified™ biochar seal. Below, Mr. Bafalis shares what this means for Aries customers and the industry at large.

MPT: What are some of the main benefits of using biochar?

Gregory Bafalis: The addition of biochar to plants and crops returns carbon to the soil. It also improves plant life by retaining water due to the carbon content of the product. Biochar varies depending on what it is made from and how it is made. Not all biochar is created equal. Certification processes like these keep the public and the planet safe. 

The certification of Aries GREEN™ biochar by both these groups is a great accomplishment. This will give our product an edge in today’s biochar marketplace. It’s further validation that downdraft gasification is a green solution for wood waste streams. 

MPT: How did Aries Clean Energy achieve this distinction? What is the process like?

Gregory Bafalis: Third-party verification for a product’s biobased content is administered through the USDA BioPreferred Program, an initiative created by the 2002 Farm Bill (and most recently expanded by the 2014 Farm Bill). One of the goals of the program is to increase the development, purchase, and use of biobased products. 

Independent labs are also utilized for the IBI certification process. In each instance, samples are tested, and the results are sent to USDA and IBI for analysis and final approvals. IBI is the world’s foremost authority and source of credible information on biochar, and it has established itself as an international leader in helping to make sustainable biochar systems commercially viable in order to combat climate change and enhance soils.

MPT: What does this certification mean for consumers of Aries Clean Energy products? 

Gregory Bafalis: Consumers can confidently use this on houseplants, lawns, and gardens knowing that nothing in it is harmful because it has been through independent testing. We are currently working to take Aries GREEN™ biochar to the public later this year.

The ongoing biochar testing through the University of Tennessee Institute for Agriculture is encouraging. Although results have not been published because the testing is ongoing, preliminary findings show that biochar does make a difference. The crops planted on soil with biochar added are visibly larger and healthier. It has also helped reclaim flood-induced, sand-dense soil into crop producing areas. 

A primary goal of the IBI Biochar Certification Program is to create consumer and marketplace confidence and quality assurances around biochar by creating a standardized, recognized system to certify biochar that meets the IBI Biochar Standards. 

The biochar community recognizes IBI as a credible brand. Buyers are assured that biochar with the IBI Certified™ biochar seal meets the IBI Biochar Standards for material characteristics and passes screening tests for certain potential toxicants.

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