How insane power bill drove couple to biogas: The Standard

Kericho Deputy Governor Susan Kikwai switches on a crushing machine at Emsat poultry farm used to from chicken waste. [Nikko Tanui/Standard]

A few years ago, when Kenya Power handed Emsat Poultry farm a Sh120,000 electricity bill, it shocked the owners and almost pushed them to close down the venture.

However, Sammy Too and his wife Emily, from Belgut constituency in Kericho County, went back to the drawing board and came back with a brilliant sollution to curb such hefty power bills.
They developed an innovative biogas heating system for the brooder house and ultimately cut down on their bills.
“Through my research, I noted that farmers in India and Netherlands generate biogas from the chicken waste for use to heat the brooder house and we thought we could also apply the same concept here,” said Too.

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Too, who works for the United Nations, contacted a local biogas company and discussed with them his vision to generate biogas from the chicken droppings.
“After lengthy discussions, the company suggested that we establish two biogas systems. However, the Sh2 million capital was too costly,” he recalls.
The teams finally settled on a single flexi biogas digester.
“During the test run, we did not have any problem generating biogas from the chicken waste for cooking. But the challenge was how to connect the energy to the brooder house heating system.” 

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The determined poultry farmer did more research and after several false starts, finally got a breakthrough.
“We laid down water pipes connected to the gas chamber in the brooder, which when lit, heats the water. Once the water is heated to between 50-60 degrees Celsius, it circulates through the pipes laid down in circles in 12 brooder compartments. Each of the units can house up to 500 day-old to two-weeks-old chicks,” says Too.
Above the heating units where the chicks sit are canvas canopies, which can be lowered to cover and retain the heat inside the compartments.
“This method ensures that we maintain the right temperature of approximately 30 degrees for the chicks to grow with minimal fatalities,” says Too.
To generate the biogas for heating the 2,000 capacity brooder house – as well as Too’s house and that of his eight farm employees – the bio-digester only requires about 400kg of chicken waste (approximately four wheelbarrows).

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Lucky for them, the 4,000 chickens at the farm generate 1,200kg of waste, which is more than what is used to generate biogas. The surplus is used to process organic fertiliser.
The idea that started as a solution to a nagging problem is now a game-changer. 
“The idea came about as a means of managing the waste, which was a menace not only to us, but also the neighbours,” says Emily.
To process the organic fertiliser at the farm, the chicken waste is mixed with water and channelled through pipes to a series of waste tanks with a capacity to store 7,000-8,000kg of the slurry.
“The waste is stored in the first tank for a week to allow fermentation to take place. It is then moved to the next chamber for a week and then into the final chamber. The process takes between three to four weeks,” explains Too.
Through suction method, the waste is then pumped to a dewatering machine, which separates the solid matter from liquid.
“The liquid becomes a foliar fertiliser and is channelled to a storage tank. The solid matter, on the other hand, which is still wet, is taken to a drying room.” 

From the drying room, the chicken waste is sieved to remove non-degradable materials such as feathers before it is then taken to the crushing machine for breaking into smaller particles for easy packaging.
“There is an extra process whereby if a farmer requests for the fertiliser in granules form we do that using a granulator machine,” explains Emily.
The fertiliser, being natural, leads to high premium products free of chemicals.
“There is a difference between using chemical and organic fertilisers. When we used to use conventional fertiliser in our one-acre land in Kipkelion, we would harvest less than 20 bags of maize, but when we apply organic fertiliser, we now harvest up to 45 bags of maize,” she says.
To fully commercialise their idea, Too says they have already dispatched their samples to the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and are yet to get feedback.
“Once we get the certification, we will confirm all the ingredients and percentages in our fertiliser,” he said.
While they await the Kebs certification, the Toos are enjoying brisk business from the sale of eggs. They collect 100 trays of eggs per day, which they sell in markets in Kericho and Kisumu counties.

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