The founder and CEO of Sistema.bio, a provider of hybrid reactor digester solutions, is in Kenya to tour field offices and launch the company’s water boilers.
Alex Eaton two weeks tour will also see him meet farmers and other partners across the country and check on new regional field offices.
Speaking to the press at the Nairobi Sistema offices, Alex said he was motivated by the good job being done by the Kenyan team and cooperation from farmers. The company has five offices in Kenya with about 100 employees. “Kenya’s office is one of the fastest growing compared to offices in other different parts of the world,” he said.
The company has offices in India, Mexico, Nicaragua and Colombia. In East Africa, the company is also establishing base in Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
The Sistema.bio founder first came to Kenya as a tourist at the age of 18 years. He wanted to spend more time in Kenya and interact more with farmers after exploring the country’s tourist attractions such as Mt Kenya, Maasai Mara National Reserve, wildlife and rich cultural values of Kenyan communities. This really motivated him to come back years later with the Sistema.bio technology to boost Kenyan farmers.
Alex, 40, grew up as a farmer and enjoyed working with farmers at an early age, helping in taking care of horses, pigs and sheep. He grew up in farms in New Hampshire USA before relocating to Mexico to assist smallholder farmers.
He started serious engagements with farmers in 2005 and later set up the Sistema Company in 2010. Later in 2016, he came to Kenya and introduced the Sistema technology in 2017.
The company now aims to install between 3000 to 4000 pieces to farmers this year in Kenya.
According to him, the demand for clean cooking energy is high compared to other alternatives such as firewood and kerosene. “Kenya has high potential with millions of livestock farmers, with animal waste as ready raw material for biogas production,” he said.
He says the Sistema biobolsa bio digester technology comes with health benefits as it enables farmers make good use of animal wastes on the farm by producing clean cooking gas and residue is used as fertilizer.
His main strategy has been building a strong brand to emerge the best in the market since there are many other biogas companies.
“Farmers trust us since our product is very reliable and they have been our number one ambassadors who have been encouraging others to buy our product,” he said.
The company aims to empower farmers by making them more efficient and productive, access financing and technology. A farmer is only required to pay 20% of the total amount for the bio digester to be installed and then the remaining amount is paid in installments for 12 months. The farmer pays for the amount in installments without being charged interest.
Sistema.bio has also launched Sistema water boilers, a hot water system that uses biogas to heat water for bathroom showers. This is the first ever biogas water heater to be launched in Kenya. They have also installed engines that are run by biogas on farms for purposes of generating power for lighting and running farm machinery such as chaff cutters.
The company now aims to install between 3000 to 4000 pieces to farmers this year in Kenya and targets to install 40,000 in four years. In 10 years to come, they intend to reach 2 million farmers in Kenya, reach 20 million farmers around the world and promote use of clean cooking gas for a better health with a positive impact on climate change.
The Sistema.bio CEO has a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, who is also one of the reasons he “strives to the world a better place.”
Mr Cedric Todwell, who is also the company’s global commercial director says most farmers face economic challenges but the Sistema.bio technology has helped them cut on expenditures by offering cheap biogas for cooking and running farm machinery.
“Travelling to some remote villages during rainy reason has been a challenge because most roads are impassable but we still reach farms for installation or checking on the already installed equipment,” said Mr Todwell.
Most of the materials for the bio digester are imported from Mexico but tubes and connectors are obtained from local manufacturers. Parts of the Sistema equipment are manufactured from recyclable bottle tops and the same technology is being used to fix the bio digesters in Kenya and in other countries.
In January 2019, Sistema.bio was nominated for the prestigious Ashden Awards for promoting the use of clean cooking gas. Ten winning energy innovators will be named in July this year at awards ceremony in London during the first London Climate Action Week.