Jacques Nault, the CO2 gravedigger

Jacques Nault, le fossoyeur de CO2

The CO 2 gravedigger

The last time you saw one of your boyfriends, he was 6 feet 3 and weighed 250 pounds. You meet him a few years later, skinny as a nail. “Wouppelai!”, you think, he really needs to plump up! » Over the last century, our lands have also lost some of their hair. More than half of the carbon they contained has escaped following the intensification of agricultural practices. This loss generated almost as much greenhouse gas as all fossil fuels during the same period.

Long concerned about climate change and soil depletion, agronomist Jacques Nault co-founded Logiag with his brother Charles. That was in 1999. Over the last ten years, their company has, among other things, developed a revolutionary technology which has just won it a first prize in an international competition launched by the American group Indigo Ag. A superb distinction when we know that 250 companies from 44 countries competed for this first place.

Thanks to its system LaserAG , an ultra-sophisticated device weighing 500 kg and the size of a washing machine, it is now possible not only to evaluate the composition of a soil (potash, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, etc.) in less than a minute, but also the amount of carbon it contains. To make the soil samples taken in the field speak, we bombard them with bursts of 100 laser pulses per second. This excites electrons, raises their temperature to 20,000°C, creates a plasma and makes it possible to intercept photons which end up spitting out the desired information.

It took ten years of effort to develop this ingenious system which combines laser-induced spectroscopy, an optical unit precise to a millionth of a meter and the phenomenal power of algorithms. With the help of the Boucherville NRC, the National Optical Institute (INO) and the Montreal Computer Research Center (CRIM) and his own team of researchers, Jacques Nault managed to achieve a level of precision that only a chemical laboratory can deliver much less quickly and at an incomparably higher cost. “ In an eight-hour day,” says Jacques Nault, “an operator can carry out 500 complete analyzes without chemicals and without any risk of human error. »

Knowing that agriculture is responsible for 10% of GHG emissions, we understand the reason which pushed the 60-year-old agronomist and his entire team to deploy so much effort. “ In addition to being able to reduce its production of carbon dioxide, agriculture is the only industry capable of trapping CO 2 which is in the atmosphere. We can absorb up to three times more greenhouse gases into our soil than we emit. »Studies would indeed prove that each acre of agricultural land could store in the form of organic matter 13 to 26 tonnes of carbon which are now circulating in the air of our suffocating planet.

Indigo Ag aims to sequester a trillion (trillion) tonnes of carbon in the soil over the years. Jacques, who lives a stone's throw from the American border, wants the company that awarded his invention to order a large number of them to achieve its goals.

Indigo found the technology that suited it. It can encourage farmers to sequester carbon in soils. For its part, it will gradually be able to benefit from the carbon credits that this will generate. »

Although he grew up on the asphalt of Montreal, Jacques always knew he would pursue a career in agronomy. There is no question for him, therefore, of waiting for this prestigious prize to take action. With a master's degree in ecological agriculture obtained in 1991, he developed training with other colleagues on integrated fertilization. With around 150 of his farmer clients, he carried out diagnoses, made recommendations and promoted no-till cultivation, continuous cultivation and optimal quantities of manure to be poured onto the soil. It was, in a way, an Agro-Environmental Fertilization Plan (PAEF) before its time.

Less than two years after launching his business, Logiag had 1,500 customers. Today, thanks to the network developed with other firms, 6,000 farmers can benefit from its database. “ We ensure that the recommendations comply with the Agricultural Operations Regulations and the rules of agronomic laws. »

Over the years, Logiag's offering has expanded. It has a department of services, engineering, IT, fertilizing residual materials and, of course, that of soil analysis which made it possible to develop LaserAg.

So much so that today, we can say that at the Châteauguay head office, the environment is very healthy. Logiag’s vice-president of agronomy could even say loud and clear: “ Bring some carbon dioxide ! We eat it! ".

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