Kenyan Flower Farms Turn Waste to Clean Energy

Kenyan Flower Farms which have for so long faced challenges from the management of waste, high electricity costs needed to maintain temperatures for the flowers, and dealing with the wastage issue now have an answer to these problems.

QUBE Renewables Ltd an innovation is providing a solution for turning waste into energy with a new technology dubbed anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion uses bacteria to break down organic matter which in turn generates biogas used for cooking and generating electricity.

The project was supported by Energy Catalyst, an Innovate UK program that helps early- to late-stage innovators develop market-based technologies and business models that accelerate access to clean, modern and affordable energy in Africa and Asia. Grants Biotech, a Kenyan firm offered technical support and on-site operations while the University of South Wales was the academic partner.

“Although Kenya has a good electricity supply, the majority of the population is often off-grid especially during the day with a bulk of the people not being able to access clean fuel. QUBE’s philosophy is to turn people’s problems, like waste, into solutions,” said Jo Clayton the Co-founder and Director of QUBE renewables.

QUBE Renewables Ltd is currently working in Oserian Flower Farm, the largest Kenyan producer, and exporter of flowers, transforming heaps of flower waste up to 1,825 tonnes annually to energy instead of dumping them in landfills or composting.

cylinders of QUBE Renewables

“The flower waste is turned into compost. All the greenhouse gases that are produced during the process are released into the atmosphere and that is what anaerobic digestion tries to tackle. The innovation is thought of as a huge factory-scale project but we try to package it down into something small and neat so that it fits into a shipping container and can be put down anywhere in the world,” added Jo.

According to Jo, the new system, installed at the farm as part of its long-term focus on sustainability, was built and factory-tested in the UK before being shipped and assembled at the farm using local resources. It is made up of 10 containers with each container acting as an individual digester, 10 batch reactors, a control room, a laboratory, and a workshop. Each reactor can accommodate up to three tonnes of flower waste.

The new biogas technology is timely with the potential for scaling coming at a time when up to 90 percent of the Kenyan rural population continue to rely on wood fuel and kerosene to meet their energy needs exposing them and the environment to harmful effects.

Beatrice Wachira, the Site Manager at Grants Biotech Ltd agrees: “We are not only providing biogas for cooking purposes. Our main aim is to provide clean energy that can power entire operations at Oserian.”

As the country seeks to address energy poverty and move to a just transition, low-cost clean technologies that tap into local solutions while addressing the waste menace could be the new energy game changer across households and industries.

Flower wastes ready for processing

“There has been a huge improvement in how we operate in the kitchen. The transition from firewood to biogas has enhanced efficiency and protected our health. This kind of energy is changing our lives and it is our hope now and, in the future,” enthused Hilary Bett a Chef at Oserian Flower Farm.

Since agricultural waste remains one of the most abundant biomass resources in the country. It is discarded by burning or being left to rot further harming the environment. Well, biogas energy has previously been promoted and embraced; the adoption remains low due to the high cost of installing the production systems.

“Dry digestion in sub-Saharan Africa has a huge potential to utilize agricultural wastes that are otherwise left to rot, which is a tremendous waste of a potential source of energy, given it can provide clean affordable biogas for cooking and local power generation,” said Mark Clayton, the technical director at QUBE.

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