New bill aims to direct nut farming waste into sustainable fertilizer

California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Representative Josh Harder is pushing a bipartisan bill that would help local farmers and tackle climate change.

The Future of Agriculture Resiliency and Modernization Act — or Farm Act — would give billions of dollars for farmers to invest in green agriculture technology.

Mike Woelk is the CEO of Corigin Solutions LLC, a sustainable agriculture company based in Merced.

“I really enjoy being able to help solve the climate change problem,” Woelk said. “Our only ingredient is almond shells.”

Corigin uses pyrolysis — the process of collecting almond shells and other farm waste heating them at about 1,000 degrees to produce a liquid plant growth stimulant and a charcoal-like soil amendment known as biochar that they sell back to farmers. 

“When put into the soil it retains water, retains nutrients and increases soil fertility, and most importantly, that carbon in the biochar is never looping back into the atmosphere,” Woelk said. “Just 8 of these bags of biochar is the equivalent to taking one car off the road for a year.”

Rep. Harder recently reintroduced his Farm Act bill which would invest about $2.5 billion to help farmers implement climate-friendly farming methods like pyrolysis.

“We can help create an entire new industry, building off of our historic success in agriculture,” Harder said.

Without pyrolysis, most nut farmers are forced to burn the shells, contributing to poor air quality in the San Joaquin Valley which has some of the worst in the country.

“And there’s more and more regulations, more and more restrictions on agricultural burning in the San Joaquin Valley,” Harder said. “So, this bill is going to help our farmers come into compliance with some of these new laws.”

Harder and Woelk believe this could be the future of farming.

“We can do it with any kind of nutshell — in fact, any kind of farm waste,” Woelk said.

“We are the fruit and nut basket of the entire world and we need to continue to double-down on that, because these are jobs that can’t be done anywhere else in the entire world,” Harder said.

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