There are around 570 million smallholder and family farms in the world, and they are home to over 2 billion people. These are the people we work for. It is important for us to understand their realities, their needs, and their resources. For ten years, Sistema.bio has joined hands with these farmers, with the clear vision of eradicating world hunger and poverty through the power of biogas.
While Sistema.bio started by offering domestic biogas solutions, we have always known that we can increase our impact on smallholder farming by offering clean energy machinery to enhance farmer productivity. Ultimately, this shows a bigger return of investment. This is why since Sistema.bio’s early stages we started a journey of product development. We are always looking to build solutions that fit each farmer’s specific energy, productive and financial needs. We strive to understand how biogas can enhance their productivity and efficiency, in order to ensure sustainability for farmers everywhere.
Along this journey, Sistema.bio has managed to build important alliances to support its research and development efforts for understanding not only the product, but also the market viability of thermal and mechanical biogas appliances. One of these research efforts happened with the support of Shell Foundation and DFID.
Shell Foundation has been a key partner of Sistema.bio since 2017, and their support played a major role in our expansion into East Africa and India. Now, for over a year and a half, they have supported us in the process of testing productive use appliances for farmers, as well as in measuring their impact on farmers’ productivity and livelihoods. As a result of the research Sistema.bio and the Shell Foundation release the report “Unleashing the potential for productive appliances in farming.” Here is a summary of the report highlights.
The research gathered data from 5,000 of our customers, as well as additional farmers that fit our customer profile. We approached these farmers at markets, agricultural fairs and cooperative meetings in Mexico, Kenya and India, with the intention of anticipating customer demand for productive biogas appliances. We also wanted to see how productive biogas appliance innovation can contribute to increased energy access in rural livelihood, as well as to the development of biogas as a utility.
In our years of working with biogas, we have found that biogas energy is easy to store and dispatch, which allows our systems to adjust to the needs of farmers and complement other energy systems. Biogas appliances can increase energy access for farmers that either don’t have mechanical energy (or don’t use it because they can’t afford it) or don’t have access to a reliable source of electricity.
The data from this research shows that we can improve livelihoods for hundreds of millions of households through biogas appliances. Products like biogas water pumps, biogas engines, chaff cutters, grain mills and water heaters don’t only mean significant energy savings at productive scale farms: they can also add value to the agricultural value chain. Specifically, we found that:
- Productive scale farmers spend more money on productive scale energy uses than on domestic uses. In India, one of our main markets, productive energy expenses were ten times larger than domestic energy expenses.
- Productive scale biogas appliances can increase energy access for small farmers while creating significant savings and increased revenue.
- In India and Kenya, there is an opportunity to offer additional productive biogas appliances to 47% and 32% of our existing clients, respectively.
- In Mexico, these appliances give us the opportunity to offer our service to various types of farms, including large (productive) farms. This would open the door to considering biogas as a utility for the broader community.
- Introducing mechanical energy biogas appliances will have an important impact in rural agricultural markets.
By creating their own energy, farmers can mechanize their processes, ensure stable electrical supply, and create significant economic savings. The use of biogas as an energy source contributes to agricultural productivity, increased quality of products, extending the cold chain, and improving the overall efficiency of processing.
We want to be a part of farmers’ lives and we are continually working on ways to contribute to farm growth. We are aware that smallholder farmers produce over 70% of food in developing countries. By focusing on them, we are also looking to have an impact on regional and global food security. The work done with the support of the Shell Foundation marks the beginning of a period of collaboration for the research and development of new biogas appliances for farmers in LATAM, Africa and Asia. In this new decade, we will find new ways to be a part of the biogas solution.