Prioritise regenerative resources, Strengthen and advance knowledge, Design for the future
7Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
12Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Biomass gasification turns solid feedstocks into combustible gases and biochar. Biochar is a soil amendment which enhances fertiliser uptake, water retention and crop production. It can lock away large amounts of carbon without additional costs.
It can also use low-grade agricultural ‘waste’ instead of wood and gives a higher energy efficiency than incineration. For example, using the available residue from just five of Uganda’s main crops for gasification would displace the wood fuel consumption of 6 million people.
After a chance meeting at Nairobi airport in 2016, the scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) joined forces with The Cobalt Partners to commercialise biochar research. IITA and its partners achieved impressive results working with 150 Kenyan farmers who saw gains of 22-38% in their harvest over three consecutive seasons. Knowing that community engagement was critical for success, they brought on The Grass Company, a base of the pyramid consumer collaboration agency.
In order to move away from extractive food production and expensive, unreliable energy sources, the partners have been building and refining a closed-loop model, engaging agribusinesses, gasification systems and ICT providers, policymakers and investors.
Co-REGEN designs and delivers holistic models for generating reliable energy and biochar. This creates a new income stream for farmers who can sell residues such as nut shells, tea prunings, husks, and tree litter that are either burnt or left in the fields. Biochar reduces fertiliser use and increases productivity so farmers earn more from the same parcel of land.
Gasifiers obtain more energy from biomass and release less carbon to the atmosphere than incinerators. 150 tonnes of biomass generates enough electricity for 50 lowincome families for a year, and enough heat to boil 2.5 million litres of water.
The same amount gives 10 tonnes of biochar which removes 33 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere - equivalent to 12,000 litres of petrol. Co-REGEN is now focused on industrial applications. For example, in Kenya’s tea sector, gasification could satisfy power needs for local processing and enable new on-site value addition. It could also generate revenue from carbon credits.