Turning waste into sustainable bio-fuel.
Alkagel won our 2017 Global Grand Final with their liquid bio fuel. Since then the Kenyan start-up has not wasted any time and used the momentum to kick-start their business. What they do? They produce Bio-Alkanol gel, a thick liquid fuel composed of a mixture of ethanol, cellulose and water.
In countries like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania most rural household energy needs are met by biomass energy like firewood, charcoal and agricultural wastes resulting in serious environmental and health issues. Bio-Alkanol Gel is an alternative renewable and clean biofuel that reduces Kenya’s reliance on other energy sources. Their innovation has the potential to significantly lower wood-based fuels, paraffin and gas-based fuel dependency in rural communities.
“From being a scientist I also became an entrepreneur.”
Their process involves the microbial fermentation of sugars from orange peelings and eggshells as a source of bio-fuel is a novel undertaking. The conversion of fruit peeling cellulose biomass into cellulosic-alkanol and eggshells into calcium acetate (gelling agent) is an innovative way of turning waste into fuel.
The resulting Bio-Alkanol gel obtained is a form of renewable energy that burns with a clear flame without smoke or soot formation. It helps in the fight against deforestation and the silent killer (smoke) in the kitchens of rural East African residents.
“We’ve developed standardized production procedures which made a huge difference.”
We were on the phone with Alkagel’s founder Bonface Jiveri to talk about what they’ve been up to since winning our 2017 final.
“Actually, I did not expect to be the winner of the Grand Final,” Bonface says. “I am a microbiologist and getting into business was not one of my dreams. But going through the Boot Camps and taking part in the Global Finals in Cyprus changed my mentality. From being a scientist I also became an entrepreneur. This whole experience made me apply for other competitions as well here in Kenya, which eventually I also won. One of them is The Kenyan National Innovation Awards competition, where I was selected the best and I won money prize. Since joining ClimateLaunchpad, so many things have changed for my company. Initially it was just an idea. But then we’ve developed standardized production procedures which made a huge difference.”
Bio-Alkanol Gel is an alternative renewable and clean biofuel that burns with a clear flame without smoke or soot formation. The product has the potential to significantly lower wood-based fuels, paraffin and gas-based fuel dependency in rural communities and helps in the fight against deforestation.
Sounds like a lot of progress. What were your main lessons learnt from participating?
“So, it didn't occur to me that I would win, it has taught me a lot about myself and about the nature of this innovation. The main thing I learnt is to work on stuff I believe in, regardless of what anyone else thinks. ClimateLaunchpad equipped me with pitching skills that have aided me win two other awards in Kenya, it fuelled me to obtain uncommon results. This was an amazing experience for me.”
“The main thing I learnt is to work on stuff I believe in, regardless of what anyone else thinks.”
Where do you stand now with Alkagel?
“We joined EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator, the world’s first real-life business school. I have a lot of expectations as this will help us with the full commercialization of our company.
How big is your team now? And do you already have paying customers & revenue?
“In the beginning we were only two people working on the idea of Bio-Alkanol Gel, but now we are ten in total. Currently we are still in the process of getting our certificate. In terms of customers, at this point we are giving our products to people for free and getting feedback from them. Most of them really, really want the product, but we cannot start selling them the product before the certificate is in. As this is likely to be issued in the following weeks, we are preparing to start sales soon. We expect sales to be be very high.”
What are your ambitions for this and next year? What are the big plans?
“Our biggest objective is to help fight climate change by introducing our bio fuel in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.”
“This year we are planning to have three small and medium enterprises. Currently we have only one but we need to have three, so that this product can reach out to anyone. Our biggest objective is to mitigate global warming and climate change by introducing our bio fuel in three countries: starting with Kenya and then move to Uganda and then Tanzania. We are really working hard, so by the end of this year we’ll be covering Kenya and next year we will probably be opening these two other countries.”
Best advice: Always work on things you’re passionate about.
“To all aspiring climate innovators: a successful innovator is the person who leaves the world better than they found it, who never fails to look for the best in others or give the best of themselves. Passion in what you do. It is the spark that illuminates your path to success and creates masterpieces along the way. ClimateLaunchpad will help you move your idea forward on a rigid foundation.”