Driving sustainability with Biogas

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Driving sustainability with Biogas

“At Sistema.bio, we are committed to optimizing our supply chain and production operations by implementing effective inventory management techniques. We monitor inventory levels, and make use of effective ordering and production methods to reduce wastage. Using our robust inventory management and supply chain, we can service that last-mile demand within a given timeframe and with a high-quality threshold in extremely remote rural áreas,” shares Piyush Sohani, MD, Sistema.bio India, during this exclusive interview…

How did the seeds of Sistema.bio take fruition? The increasing adoption of biogas paves way for eco-friendly practices as well. Kindly elaborate how Sistema.bio works towards addressing and enhancing the same?

Piyush Sohani, MD, Sistema.bio India

In 2010, Alex Eaton and Camilo Pagés founded Sistema.bio in Mexico to address the challenges of poverty, food security, and climate change. In rural areas, smallholder farmers face a lack of affordable and reliable energy sources that limit their production and living standards. Biogas was a potential remedy to these problems, our co-founders worked on developing a scalable and costeffective biogas system for smallholder farmers.

Our biodigesters convert organic waste, such as animal manure, into renewable energy in the form of biogas. Depending on the needs of different farmers and the size of their farms as well as the availability of feedstock, the system is modular. It can be altered to suit their requirements. Biogas technology from Sistema.bio can help farmers generate renewable energy and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. As a result of the bioslurry produced, crop yields and soil health can be improved, reducing synthetic fertilizer usage.

Kindly enlighten us on the value chain of Sistema.bio from Waste to Value.

Livestock manure can pose serious threats to the environment and human health if not managed adequately. Usually, the waste generated from livestocks at farms is dumped by the roadside to decompose which is then used as Farm Yard Manure (FYM) in agricultural practices or as dried dung cakes for cooking. This leads to two main issues. First off, it causes the discharge of methane gas, a pollutant for the environment. Second, it can also result in groundwater contamination during rainy seasons.

Our cutting-edge technology solves these problems by turning animal waste into a useful resource for both farmers and the environment. By feeding the livestock waste into a biodigester, methane gas is produced, which can be used for cooking. This reduces the need for LPG and supplies a sustainable energy source to farmers. Additionally, the biodigester also produces bioslurry that is richer in nutrients than the conventional Farm Yard Manure (FYM), providing farmers additional advantages.

What were the challenges that you encountered during this journey?

The Government of India (GoI) is driving the use of biogas plants, especially with smallholder farmers, dairy farmers and creating a value chain that will immensely contribute to enhancing the livelihoods of dairy farmers and promotion of green energy. However, while biogas plants have existed in India for over six decades, the acceptance levels were very low due to high cost, amount of land they occupied, the required civil construction, minimal or no training and no support in postinstallation maintaining them.

The biodigesters we provide are designed to offer farmers sustainable waste-to-energy solutions, open avenues for generating additional income, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at farms by up to 80%, reducing their monthly costs for LPG cylinders and chemical fertilizer.

The first task was for us to overcome the farmers' mindset, demonstrate these advantages of our technology to them, and convince them that our innovative biogas plants have the potential to overcome the challenges presented by old biogas plants.

What crucial role does the supply chain have in the value chain?

As a technology-based enterprise, we specialize in manufacturing biodigesters using top-of-the-line material and processes. Our main value proposition is to make sure that our biodigesters last for more than ten years without causing any major difficulty to the farmers. 

Because we operate in rural regions and seek to establish the trust of farmers, it is vital that our material selection and manufacturing procedure be executed efficiently. Our biodigesters must function flawlessly to make sure farmers are happy and to support sustainable agricultural methods.

We use more than 20 different types of materials, ranging from industrial grade polyethylene to different kinds of steel, to accomplish this. Since we produce hundreds of biodigesters each month and distribute them worldwide, we have put in place a strong supply chain system to guarantee reliable quality and prompt delivery. To assure the greatest level of quality and dependability for our clients, we actively monitor and manage these difficulties, which are similar to those faced by any business due to global dynamics affecting material demand and price variations.

What are the supply chain best practices you have implemented at Sistema.bio?

At Sistema.bio, we are committed to optimizing our supply chain and production operations by implementing effective inventory management techniques. We monitor inventory levels, make use of effective ordering and production methods, to reduce wastage. Using our robust inventory management and supply chain, we can service that last mile demand within a given timeframe and with a high-quality threshold in extremely remote rural áreas.

In order to be cost-effective, we place a high priority on developing trusting relationships with our suppliers and obtaining raw materials in bulk in advance. Our logistics management system speeds up deliveries, improves delivery precision, and consumes less fuel. We have developed an efficient supply chain structure to ensure the consistent quality and prompt delivery of our biodigesters.

You have been associated with leading global players who are volunteering sustainability. How do you view sustainability and how are you working towards empowering small dairy farmers?

Sustainability is a core concept at Sistema.bio guiding all of our operations, from sales and service to packaging and product design and production methods. We place a huge emphasis on how the decisions we make now will affect society, the economy, and the environment in the long run as part of our commitment to sustainable development. In terms of markets, financing, and technology, we are aware that small dairy producers frequently confront substantial obstacles. As a result, we work to give these farmers greater control over their own lives by giving them the tools they need to become more independent and sustainable.

Our strategy includes providing dairy farmers with cutting-edge biogas technology as well as the funding they need to access it. The bio-slurry produced from our biodigesters, encourages organic farming methods and lessens dependency on hazardous chemical fertilizers. To help dairy farmers maintain their biodigesters successfully and reap the most benefits possible, we also provide extensive assistance and instruction.

How is the deployment of new age technologies helping the company in the journey?

Technology plays a crucial role in every step of our business process, allowing us to work quickly and effectively. Mobile apps enabled with GPS allow us to locate farmers in the rural areas and provide the best service. Each piece of information pertaining to farmer orders is logged by our sales team using a mobile app, and this information is then sent to our main CRM platform. In order to create the necessary systems, our manufacturing team uses this information. It is also integrated with our financial accounting system to keep track of orders and payments.

We employ a centralized customer care procedure and the same mobile app to track system installations and service in order to guarantee excellent customer service. Additionally, we also provide accessories like smart energy and gas meters to clients who want to track their gas and power usage from biogas, as well as their financial savings on LPG.

What are the global best practices that you are imbibing in India?

Our efforts to advance sustainable agricultural practices in India are intended to reduce negative environmental effects, increase agricultural output, and improve farmer welfare. Due to their success in striking a balance between environmental preservation and agricultural expansion, these practices are gaining attention on a global scale. Our cutting-edge technology is enabling farmers to become independent and well-equipped with the tools to obtain renewable energy, embrace organic farming methods, and efficiently utilize waste, hence lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

We keep open and solid communication with our partners, suppliers, and farmers as part of our commitment to ensure the effectiveness of our supply chain practices. We consistently attempt to enhance our procedures and quality control measures to address any difficulties that may develop, and our inventory and logistics management system is created to maximize our efficiency.

How complex and different is the Indian market than the Western countries?

India has a very diverse culture that varies across regions, religions, and languages. For any organization to be successful in the Indian market, it is crucial for them to comprehend the cultural nuances and preferences of their target audience.

Smallholder farmers in India and the Western countries may share a few similarities including lack of infrastructure, facing adverse effects of climate change and market fluctuations. They both lack access to credit and have limited resources which makes them vulnerable to cost of production, but they belong to very different cultural backgrounds.

Indian smallholder farmers frequently use conventional farming techniques that have been handed down through the centuries. They place a high priority on community-based farming, where agriculture serves as both a means of subsistence and a way of life that is intricately entwined with their religious and social practices. Family and community are important factors in decision-making, and farming is frequently viewed as a family business where several generations coexist on farms.

Farmers in Western nations, on the other hand, are more likely to adopt cutting-edge, technologically advanced farming methods that are significantly affected by industrialized and marketoriented agriculture. They frequently act as independent business owners, basing their choices on market dynamics, academic research, and financial factors.Although family farming remains significant, it may not have the same cultural significance as it does in India, and they may place a greater emphasis on individualism and independence.

You have also come up with the concept of a biodigester carbon programme. How does this work and how does this help in achieving SDGs?

The primary objective of Sistema.bio is to enhance farmer livelihoods while fostering environmental sustainability. Since we are aware that farmers often possess limited resources, we are continually looking for novel methods to make our technology affordable for them. New avenues for climate financing have recently opened up as a result of the global climate change movement. Businesses like ours can lower carbon emission on a massive scale by collaborating with foreign and Indian groups, making biodigesters more affordable to farmers who would not otherwise be able to afford them.

The widespread use of biogas by farmers significantly reduces carbon emissions in the atmosphere, aiding in the accomplishment of the 13th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of climate action. Additionally, it aids in the advancement of other SDGs like 1 - No Poverty, 2- Zero Hunger, 3- Good Health & Well-Being, 5- Gender Equality, 7- Affordable & Clean Energy, 8- Decent Work & Economic Growth, 14- Life Below Water, 15-Life on Land. 

How do you foresee your innovative biogas technology enhancing agricultural productivity and enhancing farm sustainability?

The use of biogas technology on farms could have a wide range of positive effects on sustainability and production. The anaerobic digestion of organic wastes like animal manure, agricultural byproducts, and food waste results in the production of biogas, a renewable energy source, as well as a fertilizer that is rich in nutrients and may be utilized to increase crop yields and soil health.

Farmers may power their farms with sustainable energy by using biogas technology, which reduces their dependency on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, by using the anaerobic digestion process to create nutrient-rich fertilizer, one can increase soil quality and agricultural yields while lowering the demand for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

The implementation of contemporary biogas technology has the promise of increasing agricultural production and farm sustainability through the provision of renewable energy, improvement of soil health and crop yields, and decreased impact of agriculture on the environment.

Do you foresee India achieving the ambitious target of Net Zero by 2070. What are the ways to achieve the same and how can corporations work towards realizing the goalpost?

India is definitely on the right track to achieve the Net Zero target by 2070. We need to adopt a number of steps to attain net-zero emissions by 2070, including raising the proportion of renewable energy in the energy mix, enhancing energy efficiency, encouraging sustainable agriculture and transportation, and lowering emissions from industry.

By adopting sustainable practices and reducing their carbon footprint, corporations can contribute to India's Net Zero target. Reducing waste and reusing resources can be achieved through investments in renewable energy sources, energy efficiency improvements, and the implementation of circular economy principles.

Companies that are unable to reduce their carbon footprint through conventional means should consider transforming their business operations by implementing innovative energy solutions. This can include adopting renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, or geothermal, or exploring new technologies such as carbon capture andstorage, hydrogen fuel cells, or energy storage systems.

Implementing these innovative energy solutions can not only help industries reduce their carbon footprint but can also provide economic benefits, such as cost savings and increased energy efficiency. In many cases, these solutions can also enhance the resilience of business operations and provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Furthermore, corporations can work with the government to develop and implement policies and initiatives that support the transition to a low carbon economy.

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