Biochar from free cooking fuel pellets in developing countries

Biochar from free cooking fuel pellets in developing countries

BhutanCopenhagen, Denmark
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Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Dazin manufactures and distributes pellets for cooking to households (HH) in developing countries. We provide superior fuel and stoves for free to rural HH and cheaper than competitors to urban HH. This reduces Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) consumption and sequester Carbon in the form of biochar.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

3 billion people in developing countries still use traditional fuels such as firewood, charcoal, animal dung and crop residues to obtain cooking/heating energy. Globally 4 million people die each year due to harmful smoke released from open firing, impacting more women and children. The amount of smoke exposed to these people is equal to 400 cigarettes per hour. Bhutan has the highest firewood consumption per capita globally with 78% of households energy coming from firewood. Localized deforestation, soil erosion, environmental degradaton and loss of valuable nutrients to air pollution are some of the most important consequences of traditional cooking practices. The resulting social costs such as illness and time lost has made this like social Gordian knot.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Most obvious solution is to sell clean stoves as practiced by other organisations. But the inherent problem is: “How to sell these stoves to the people earning less than $2 a day?” This question sparked an idea to provide gasifying stove and fuel pellets for free to rural households in Bhutan and in other countries. For urban customers, the fuel pellets will be considerably less expensive than other alternatives. Dazin collects free sustainably available biomass waste by people participation from extensive rural Collection Centers. Biomass is densified into pellets in local decentralized factories. Free efficient stoves and fuel is provided in return to those giving free biomass. Surplus pellets are sold to others for less than competitor’s price. A by-product (about 12%) of these gasifying stoves is biochar, which is essentially high-grade charcoal. Biochar increases the nutrients and water retention capacity of soil resulting in carbon sequestration in a very stable form.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The pellets manufacturing unit is established on community land of the village and then we ask the rural people to provide the biomass waste presently used for cooking. For instance, a rural women providing 5 kg of biomass waste to the Company gets back 1 kg of free pellets. This amount of pellets used in company’s free efficient gasifying stove from Phillips are enough to cook the same meal compared to presently used biomass. Biomass collection time also reduces as we aim to obtain only 2/3 of presently used biomass. Rest 3.5 kg of pellets (maximum 0.5 kg wastage) are sold to urban HH/commercial market at cheaper price than LPG using already exsisting retail stores. All our stoves produces quality biochar while HH enjoys smokeless cooking. When pellets are burned pyrolytically in a gasifying stove, much of the carbon is not re-emitted to the air as with normal fire combustion. Instead it remains as biochar; the pellets are simply transformed into slightly smaller charcoal pellets. We buy the biochar back from urban households providing extra earning opportunities for the households. Rural HH are able to use the biochar directly in the soil or give us back for free. All the collected biochar is sold to various stakeholders interested in organic farming. Biochar has porous structure and high surface area which retains nutrients, phosphorus and agrochemicals for the plants benefit. Plants are therefore healthier and fertilizers leach less into surface or groundwater. Ecoera’s studies in 2010 on Swedish farmland has shown a 33% increase in harvest yield from dry sandy soils.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We have tested this business model in Rwanda with our partner organization. Rural women are providing biomass waste by last 16 months with 98% retention rate. Surplus pellets are sold in urban market at cheaper price than charcoal (produced at 9% efficiency and results in massive deforestation). There are now ~100 HH customers cooking with our Fuel+Stove system on a daily basis. From ~70 HHs currently bringing biomass, we collect 500-700 kg/day, so we have no doubt the system can be scaled quickly and with low costs. We are continuously making quality pellets and have never run out of stock or failed to meet customer needs. HH are using ~1.5 kilos of pellets/HH/day and 11 tons of biochar is already collected resulting in 180 tons of carbon savings till now. Rural households also have maximum limit for providing biomass so that sustainable biomass usage can be practised. We have also started our pilot project in Bhutan, where rural households are excited to provide free raw biomass.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Dazin generates all of its profit by selling fuel, not by stoves. First 3 years of business forecast company’s emergence from development stage to a profitable one. The Company requests a mix of grant equity, low interest loans mainly to fund the purchase of factories and other capital equipment during initial 3 years. All the installed factories are expected to reach breakeven in maximum 2 years (establishment cost of $15000/factory).

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Dazin sparked an idea of tackling this problem by creating a cost effective and reliable fuel supply. First Energy (FE), India sells gasifying stoves and pellets made from sugarcane waste to people earning more than $2 a day. FE centralized production results in price increase due to raw biomass transportation compared to Dazin decentralized concept. FE buys the raw material; Dazin will use people participation to obtain free biomass supplies. FE does not have extensive distribution system in rural areas resulting in slow sales and lack of after-sales services. FE is struggling to supply cost-effective pellets due to increase in price of sugarcane waste as it depends on only one raw material source. FE gasifying stove is designed to burn the biochar resulting in 5-6% ash as a by-product.

Founding Story

3 years ago, I found out the benefits of biochar. I pin-pointed that one of the best ways to produce biochar in bulk is by using the gasifying stoves for the household energy in developing countries. Since then, I am working on this problem and spent all my resources (time and money) to reserch this topic and make this idea happen. Most of my time was dedicated to read literature and understand the problem. I believe that solution lies within the problem. While working in Africa, I realized that reliable fuel supply is as important as efficient/clean stove. I wrote down various ideas of reliable fuel production using local renewable resources and social entrepreneurship as a tool to solve this problem. After meeting several experts and working in the field in Asia and Africa, I designed a highly scable business model which can be used in any rural community with sustainable biomass resources to produce pellets and hence biochar.
About You
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About Your Organization
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Organization Country

, CO, Copenhagen

Country where this project is creating social impact
Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

Yes, we have received 3 awards. We have got Entrepreneurship in Denmark Award (2012), Develop Prize (2013) and Ben & Jerry/Ashoka Join Our Core Award (2013).

Nutrients For All
Where do you ensure the availability of nutrients?

Healthy environments., Nutrient-rich farming, Human wellness and vitality.

If you had greater capacity, which additional sectors would you like your solution to target - either through expansion, partnership, or thought exchange?

Healthy environments, Nutrient-rich farming, Full nourishment foods, Human wellness and vitality.

How specifically would this added capacity help you improve the quality, efficiency, or sustainability of your existing product or service?

As the Company success depends on extensive network of rural biomass collection, we want to use this platform to provide various benefits to rural communities. For instance, rural Bhutanese farmers face problems to get connected with the market for their crops. We aim to provide incentive to the farmers using biochar in there soils for connecting them to potential buyers using our network. We also want to use our platform for awareness and other organizations to sell the agricultural products like seeds and equipments to the farmers using our distribution channels.