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Biogas-Powered Milk Chiller for Small-Scale Dairy Farmers in Eastern Africa

Increase income of small-scale dairy farmers in Eastern Africa by eliminating milk spoilage using a biogas-powered milk chiller.

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Problem: In emerging dairy sectors worldwide, raw milk cannot be cooled at dairy farms due to lack of access to (reliable) electricity. Quality of (evening) milk is lost because it doesn’t survive the heat overnight. Low quality (evening) milk is rejected by collection centers. The resulting post-harvest milk losses at farm level are estimated at 30-40% (FAO 2003), creating a lost income opportunity for farmers and a growing gap between milk supply and milk demand.

Solution: The Biogas Milk Chiller provides off-grid biogas-powered milk cooling on-farm, allowing smallholder dairy farmers without access to electricity to store, deliver and sell the highest possible quality of raw milk and increase their income.
This bottom-up approach is new to the dairy industry; instead of focusing on the top of the cold chain - the processors - we focus on filling the gap at the bottom, where the problem originates: at the dairy farmers.

Dream: By 2020, milk spoilage by off-grid fairy farmers is something of the past; the Biogas Milk Chiller shall be a widely accepted link in the cold chain for emerging dairy sectors worldwide.

WHO BENEFITS?

Small-scale dairy farmers with 2-10 dairy cows living in rural areas benefit most from the biogas-powered milk chiller. They will benefit by increasing their income from evening milk and save time and money on milk transport. For dairy cooperatives and processors our idea leads to more and higher quality milk collected. The cooperative reduces the risk of bulked milk rejection by the dairy processor, while the processor increases its sales of high value dairy products, like cheese.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

The idea will be implemented in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia by the end of this year. At a later stage, after customer feedback is integrated into a new product iteration, expansion to Rwanda will follow.

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

SimGas is a design and production company that focuses on clean, affordable and high quality energy and sanitation solutions. Our teams are based in The Netherlands, Kenya and Tanzania. In collaboration with SNV, Mueller, and BoP Inc we develop, design and market the Biogas Milk Chiller.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

The idea of cooling milk on biogas is new to SimGas, biogas itself is not; it is our core business.
Since 2009, our teams in The Netherlands and East Africa work together to design and mass produce high quality, modular, domestic biogas systems. Currently our biogas systems provide rural households in Kenya and Tanzania with clean energy for cooking.
To extend the value of biogas technology and to transfer great ideas into tangible products, we are in constant dialogue with our customers, engineers, business developers, and partners. The idea of cooling milk on-farm on biogas, arose from conversations with our current customers!
With the introduction of the biogas-powered milk chiller we create a new off-grid energy service for our existing customer base and for dairy farmers that use other types of
domestic biogas systems.
The biogas-powered milk chiller enables productive use of biogas at small-scale farms, as it catalyzes business growth for dairy farmers, but also creates an additional unique selling point for biogas systems. Therefore, it also strengthens biogas as a platform for different energy services at small-scale rural farms.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

The product’s innovation lies in applying a proven absorption cooling technology to a new off-grid market, scale-down its usual capacity to 10 liters tailored to the needs of small-scale dairy farmers, and change its source of energy to a renewable energy source: biogas. We think that small-scale dairy farmers will prefer the biogas-powered milk chiller compared to other raw milk preservation options, because:
· It will be the first product commercially available that enables small holder dairy farmers to preserve milk according to standards accepted by international milk buyers (from 35°C to 4°C within three hours time);
· It preserves milk using an freely available and reliable source of energy: as long as cow manure is available, milk can be cooled;
· It enables preservation of milk at the source of production and thereby maintains the highest possible quality of milk;
· Its installation is fast and easy, only a gaspipe needs to be connected from the bio-digester; there is no need for construction on site;
· Our partnership with SNV and Mueller guarantees a good product-market fit in target countries and demands compliance with Mueller’s highest product quality standards.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

Consortium:
SimGas (http://www.simgas.org): R&D, sales and servicing of biogas systems in East Africa. Roles: product design, field testing, commercialization.
SNV (http://www.snvworld.com): installed > 550,000 biogas systems worldwide. Roles: market analysis, training, promotion.
Mueller BV (http://www.uk.paulmueller.com): market leader in milk chilling equipment. Roles: knowledge provider, sector expertise, commercialization.
BoPInc (http://www.bopinc.org): BoP strategy, MNC collaboration. Roles: business strategy.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

We have received beneficiary feedback through testing 4 working prototypes at small-scale farms in Tanzania, and through interviews carried out by SNV staff with dairy cooperative representatives and their members in Tanzania and Kenya. Based on the feedback,

..the following product design changes were made:
· Improved efficiency: The overall size of the product is reduced by 65% to reduce insulation losses, improve usability and minimize footprint;
· More cooling options: Optional cooling compartment added for drinks, medicines or foods;
· More robust and hygienic: Closed cooling system;
· More user friendly: Less maintenance, more ergonomic design, better accessible cooling compartment, cooling functionality adapted to a dairy farmer’s daily routine;

..and the following business design changes were made:
· Sufficient cooling capacity: For more than 80% of all small holder dairy farmers in East Africa, a 10L capacity is sufficient;
· More affordable: Pay-As-You-Go payment modality offered instead of upfront investment;
· Multiple business models: the ‘pains’ and ‘gains’ of different types of dairy farmers vary, for which multiple business models are applicable.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

1. How to keep the rise of temperature of milk during delivery to a minimum?
2. How to make the Biogas Milk Chiller easier to use than not to use?
3. How to make the process for customers to acquire lease-to-own financing care-free?
4. What is the best training that is to be given to the customers?
5. To what extent is our existing customer service center capable of assisting customers with Biogas Milk Chillers?
6. How to best demonstrate the Biogas Milk Chiller in a crowd?
7. How to best design promotion material such that target customers respond to it?
See attached Prototype Worksheet to see how we might test these questions and how we've already made a first prototype for no.1!

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

The approach in the dairy industry is top-down instead of bottom up: processors focus on cooling facilities for the top of the cold chain, the processors and the collection centers, instead of the bottom, the dairy farmers. The reasons: 1) Low awareness of milk supply shortages originating at the bottom of the chain; 50% of produced milk in East Africa is not delivered to the collection centers (FAO, 2013); 2) Market mismatch: the available products for cooling are large scale and not suitable for smallholder dairy farmers; 3) The development of an effective cooling solution that is off-grid, efficient and affordable demands a consortium with a complementary skill set and a shared vision.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

We believe in empowering people by offering them the tools that will help to improve their lives and income positions; our dream is that by 2025, milk spoilage by off-grid farmers is something of the past; the Biogas Milk Chiller shall be a widely accepted link in the cold chain for emerging dairy sectors worldwide. Next is to produce and test the 1st series at smallholder dairy farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia, to further develop its viability, user-experience and value proposition.

MEMBERS OF MY TEAM HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER FOR:

  • More than a year

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000

The dairy industry in Eastern Africa is emerging, providing not only a significant contribution to the countries’ GDP, but also supporting the livelihoods of more than two million small-scale farmers. However, lacking cooling facilities hamper its further development, as many farmers live simply too far away from the market to deliver their (evening) milk before it spoils. The resulting ‘milk losses’ at farm level are estimated at 30-40% (FAO, 2003). This limits the supply of raw milk to the milk processors; while there is a growing domestic demand and milk processing plants are operating at low utilization rates due to shortages in milk supply. The solution lies in off-grid milk cooling at small-scale farms using a reliable and renewable energy source: biogas produced from cow manure.

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Attachments (3)

SimGas BMC user experience map_OpenIDEO.pdf

User Experience Map of 'Ms Grace Massao' - the 'ideal user' of the SimGas Biogas Milk Chiller: a small holder dairy farmer with 2-10 cows, living in East Africa without (reliable) electricity access.

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Photo of ravinder
Team

The idea is too good and is the need in developing countries especially in areas there is no electricity. It's better to prevent wastage before we think of increasing the production. I think this can be extended to preserve other perishable vegetable and fruits at much large scale till the produce is ready for delivery to large center companies with better storage capabilities. In fact this can be extendined to common cold storage for few families to prevent the damage to the leftover food items in such villages instead of individual storage. This can save their time money and prevent the wastage also. 

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