An innovative Kenyan biogas technology startup removes weeds from large water bodies to produce clean gas for fuel! Biogas International has already helped the families in the village of Kisumu in western Kenya with 50 “digesters,” helping them switch from wood or charcoal to clean biogas processed from tanks of water hyacinths.
Biogas International, the Kenyan biogas technology startup, realized the harmful effect of smoke on the lives of the people of Kisumu. According to a US state agency, “The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particulate matter or PM2.5. These microscopic particles can get into one’s eyes and respiratory system causing burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses, such as bronchitis.”
Apart from being a health hazard, it is also a hazard to effectively managing time for works beyond the kitchen. Poor communities cannot spend hours waiting for a good woodfire to finish cooking. They have to work outside, and hence time management was increasingly becoming a challenge. Innovation for any social impact startup starts from domestic spaces liberating men, women, and children from hazardous and menial tasks.
In addition to the challenges faced by humans, water hyacinths are a menace for fish and other aquatic life, also breeding harmful insects and mosquitoes. Between Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, it is Lake Victoria where the Founder of Biogas International, Dominic Kahumbu, has deployed machines or digesters that feed on 2-3 kg of water hyacinth to produce clean cooking gas for the neighboring settlement.
We see how innovation can convert a menace into a blessing, agrees Dominic Kahumbu. All said, there is a challenge to this innovative solution from full-scale deployment and large-scale production of clean cooking gas. Each digester designed by Dominic Kahumbu costs $650, which is not affordable for maximum poor-income families with a GDP of $1,800, as estimated by the World Bank in 2020.
The high cost of this innovative and scalable biogas technology is holding back Dominic Kahumbu from constructing more digesters. For potential investors, there’s no likely profit until a minimum five-year breakeven. So, the social impact founder is seeking large capital investment from venture capitalists who have the farsightedness of investing in space technology at this juncture. Because what fuels domestic stoves today, on a large scale, can fuel any space propeller. You see, we need fuel for everything, and that includes the Electric Vehicle (EV) market too!
Biogas for space propellers? In India, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is developing a green fuel called LOX/Methane, liquid oxygen as oxidizer and methane as fuel. According to the ISRO Chief, K. Sivan, they have tested LOX/Methane and found commendable results. Reportedly, biogas has 50-70 percent methane, which can be procured at an industrial scale if Dominic Kahumbu gains the support of Elon Musk, dominating both space and the Electric Vehicle (EV) market. The idea is not only limited to Musk but every futuristic investor who believes in clean energy and a clean conscience.
Dominic Kahumbu is not new to the clean energy business. He has been in the science of producing clean energy for long, and as a matter of fact, he is also looking for funding for his social impact project for a very long time. Earlier, he produced 15 to 18 kilos of LPG by churning 400 kilos of waste from his digestors. It might sound a bit radical to imagine water hyacinth removed from clean water bodies for propelling space engines and rockets.
It might sound radical to imagine a fall in the consumption of petrol or diesel in the automobile industry to switch to biogas procured from water hyacinths. But, this is 2021, and everything is possible; let’s begin with funding this climate tech startup, Biogas International by Dominic Kahumbu and many others from various countries producing clean energy for social good.