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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 (www.simgas.org): R&D, sales and servicing of biogas systems in East Africa. Roles: product design, field testing, commercialization. SNV (www.snvworld.com): installed > 550,000 biogas systems worldwide. Roles: market analysis, training, promotion. Mueller BV (www.uk.paulmueller.com): market leader in milk chilling equipment. Roles: knowledge provider, sector expertise, commercialization. BoPInc (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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Excellent example of 'circular design': enable the cow to keep her own milk fresh and cool!

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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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On behalf of BoP Innovation Center: congratulations!

Excellent job!

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Congrats!

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Thank you Jan van der Kaaij!

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Congratulations

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اليكم الان العديد من الخدمات والشركات المتوفره لدى موقع دليلك الشامل والتى تقوم بتقديم خدمات تجهيزات مطابخ بأستخدام افضل معدات مطابخ مستورده من الخارج وبأقل التكاليف , زوروا هذا اللينك الان . 
http://www.hotel-restaurant-eg.com/

Photo of Muyomba Wilberforce
Team

Congrats Dorine for making it, wish you success

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Thank you Muyomba! I wish you the same!  :)

Photo of Gerwin Jansen
Team

Congrats SimGas! Enjoy the next ride and make it happen for the farmers. 

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Thank you Gerwin! We'll do everything we can to make it happen!

Photo of Alex Mugo
Team

Congratulations for making it to the last winning 5, wish you well.

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Thank you so much Alex! We feel very honoured!

Photo of Peter Fopma
Team

At Mueller we are very pleased with the development of the BMC by Simgas.  As milk cooling specialist we have supplied Simgas with knowledge about milk cooling and they have made a fantastic biogas powered milk cooler which works great and helps small farmers to cool their milk. The BMC will enable us to extend our current customer base to small dairy farmers in Africa and Asia, but more important, the BMC helps small dairy farmers to earn more money and deliver a saver product; cooled milk!

Photo of Rutger Stack
Team

Hi Peter, thank you for sharing this. We are happy to work together to enable the East-African smallholder farmers :)

Photo of Ad Krijnen
Team

A great idea. It makes little farmers independent while using biogas. Thus they solve multiple problems.

Photo of Winnie Versol
Team

I am very proud to be part of the team that develops this great innovation! The many positive reactions and helpful comments so far confirm that the milk chiller is a great solution, and could create a significant improvement for the lives of so many people. Since the start of the project we have made big steps in the realization, but we are not there yet. Winning the OpenIDEO challenge and having additional sources of finance available would definitely help a lot to turn our ideas into reality :-) 

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Dorine,

The Amplify team and our experts have some feedback for you!

Great user journey visuals. I liked that these units were prototyped with farms and the research collected to make iteration to the current units!

How would users like chiller system to work? Have you considered a couple prototypes of different systems?

Looks like it may be the most high-tech item on the farm of the producers. Are there maintenance issues/requirements the producer needs to be aware of? Issues with dust/animals/placement? Does it need to be covered or stored in specific ways? Would seasonality (rains, temperature) affect the availability of biogas for the cooler? Is there enough biogas produced to meet the needs of the cooler and the farm kitchen? Is the milk still cool upon reaching its destination?

Is biogas the most efficient method of doign this? Not questioning biogas, but just curious. As for viability are there collectives that would be an easier sell? I'd love to know what partnerships you have the ground.

Do you have a sense of what these units might cost? The ROI for farmers?

Have you thought of offering a guarantee  on the unit? Service agreement? What are your early thoughts?

Looking forward to learning more!

Photo of Rutger Stack
Team

Hi Chioma, that's really great feedback! It's great to see everyone participating to help reduce the food spillages all over the world!

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Thanks Rutger - I agree, it's been great seeing so many people join in the conversation we're having in this challenge! 

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Dear Chioma Ume , once again thank you and the expert team for your spot-on feedback! We have quite elaborate answers, so I'll split them up in separate comments for each question. 

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Q Expert team: How would users like chiller system to work? Have you considered a couple prototypes of different systems?


A SimGas team: To start with answering the last question, yes, we have considered and tested multiple prototypes in the design process. We are designing following an iterative design process. Up to now, we’ve done iterations in two phases, (1) the decision of the cooling technology in parallel with market assessments of Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia and (2) the product design phase in parallel with testing the value proposition and business case for target customers.
In the first phase we have investigated what cooling technologies combined with biogas/other renewable energy sources could meet the requirements of a milk chiller. The most potential technologies have been prototyped and tested, on which we could conclude that absorption cooling would be the best suitable solution.

In the second phase, we started to design the total product. We’ve tested the first iteration in the field; four identical prototypes tested by four dairy farmers in Tanzania, for a duration of 6 weeks. The three goals were: (1) Technical feasibility to acquire Proof of Concept status; (2) Value proposition and business case for the dairy farmer; (3) To improve the usability of the product. In the last aim, we’ve investigated how our users would like the system to work. For this first model we aimed at using a technology in the most basic form; a prototype consisting of a water basin in which the cold energy was stored during the day. On a weekly basis, our Tanzanian colleagues checked upon the performance of the system and answered questions of the customer. The four most interesting insights were (i) the customer couldn’t believe only 10 L of milk could be cooled with a chiller this big; (ii) our customers found a water basin not robust through ice formation and dirt entering the water via the can. Then, (iii) we asked the customer to stir the milk once during cooling to decrease the cooling time. Data showed us that the customers didn’t find stirring valuable enough compared to the effort it takes. At last, (iv) one customer used the chiller to cool water for consumption. To add to that, the other three customers mentioned that they would like to chill other goods, such as meat.



In the iteration that followed, we’ve completely changed the cooling storage of the chiller, mainly to decrease the size and the biogas consumption, to improve the robustness and usability, and to include the possibility to integrate a 4L cooling compartment to cool other goods and to decrease the insulation losses. The first two goals were tested successfully in a climate room the Netherlands. The last three goals were tested through a questionnaire in the field (the movie that is shown in the previous Amplify phase is part of that test). These goals will be tested more elaborately in the next iteration.



Reflecting on the past phases, we see that the focus has been mainly on technical challenges (~70%) and less on human centered design (~30%). However, we see that the upcoming main challenges will lay in the adaptation of the product offering to the user; we need to make the shift towards human-centered design, for which design support from IDEO would be very much welcome! :)



In October of this year, we will test 15 prototypes of this new design at smallholder farmers in East Africa, aiming to validate the technology and functionality, assess the availability, acceptability, affordability and awareness of the value proposition for end users and to optimize the product-user interaction and product-service system. The details of the prototype tests that we plan to do can be found in the attached document ‘SimGas BMC prototype worksheet_OpenIDEO.pdf’.

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Q Expert team: Looks like it may be the most high-tech item on the farm of the producers. Are there maintenance issues/requirements the producer needs to be aware of?

A SimGas team: 
High-tech product: Next to their motorcycle, cellphone, solar-powered lights and chargers, yes, the biogas milk chiller would be another 'high-tech' product. But not that high-tech: it runs off-grid, on any type of domestic anaerobic digester, and uses the proven and reliable absorption cooling technology (found in regular household refrigerators). Moreover, the necessary product-user interaction is very limited and easy to understand thanks to a design that uses high-tech just for that! However, we are aware that introducing high-tech products in rural East Africa may raise concerns (which we take into account during the design process), but we are also aware of the aspirational value of owning new technology. Our experience with our biogas digesters that are currently on the market is that one of the most important reasons for people living in rural East Africa to purchase a product with new technology is that they can feel proud; proud of having access to that new technology and showing their family, friends and neighbors that they have it.


Maintenance: We offer technical maintenance and servicing by our local service and installation teams. Currently, our biogas digesters are sold through our own hubs in 11 regions spread over Kenya and Tanzania. Every hub has a service and maintenance team and is not further away from our customers than 10km, in order to provide the best product service and keep in close contact with our customers.
When introducing a new product, all teams from different hubs will be trained to provide technical maintenance and servicing to the product. The maintenance for the chiller will be done on a yearly base, changing biogas filters, checking the cooling performance, biogas connection and deterioration of the materials. The servicing is done upon request of the customers.

The performance of the chiller shouldn’t rely on the maintenance of the user to the system. It should always work. Therefore, the maintenance for the user is only to keep the system clean and make sure they keep a little biogas in the tank after cooking.

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Q Expert team: Issues with dust/animals/placement? Does it need to be covered or stored in specific ways?

A SimGas team:
In the design requirements we’ve incorporated the influences of the environment on the chiller’s robustness, lifetime, placement, safety etc. These requirements have led to e.a. a sustainable material choice of the housing, the chiller being higher up from the ground for cleaning, adjustable feet to be able to place it on different ground types and to protect the user from accessing hot or sensitive parts.
Our installation team together with the customer will determine a suitable place for the chiller. The only restrictions are that the chiller should be covered by a roof (of a shed) to protect the chiller from being exposed to direct sunlight or rain, to prevent a lower cooling performance and to prevent a shorter product lifetime.

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Q Expert team: Would seasonality (rains, temperature) affect the availability of biogas for the cooler?

A SimGas team: 
In the rainy season the ambient temperature drops a bit, depending on which area in East Africa. Bacteria in the digester reproduce better at higher temperatures. When the ambient temperature decreases, the biogas production drops slightly. Our experience of the effect of the rainy season to biogas production is approximately 20%, depending on the altitude.
When considering the effect of the temperature drop on the milk chiller, it has a positive effect. When the ambient temperature drops, the BMC will be able to more efficiently use the biogas to cool milk, meaning that less biogas is needed.
Next to that, the additional benefit of a continuous cooling system is that the biogas production of farmers owning enough cows to own a chiller, is higher than the biogas consumption of the chiller. This means that even if there is a little biogas left in the digester, the chiller can continue to run.

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Q Expert team: Is there enough biogas produced to meet the needs of the cooler and the farm kitchen?

A SimGas team: 
If predominantly evening milk needs cooling, milk chilling powered by biogas shows a positive energy balance: the per-head production of cattle dung generates sufficient energy to cool down the per-head milk production and leave room for other applications such as cooking. However, we would like to further develop the milk chiller as efficient as possible in its consumption of biogas, to leave even more room for using a biogas rice cooker, biogas lamps, etc.

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Q Expert Team: Is the milk still cool upon reaching its destination?

A SimGas Team: 
This is an important issue to raise. The milk temperature will rise during delivery of the milk to the collection center. We’ve simulated this temperature rise and to be precise, 10 Liters of milk will rise from 4 to 12°C at an ambient temperature of 30°C on an average delivery time of 2 hours. The milk will be cooled or processed right after delivery at the collection center, making the time for the bacteria to duplicate rather short (bacteria multiplication is an exponential increase). However, we would like to enable dairy farmers to deliver the best quality of milk possible to the collection center. As we would like to deliver milk cans with the Biogas Milk Chiller, we’ve considered providing them with an insulation bag for transportation as well. We need to do research on the various means of transportation methods and prototype various insulation bags to be able to design a solution that is suitable for every farmer. We are reminded by your comment and will include several iterations of insulated transportation bags in the field test of 15 prototypes this October. Thanks!

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Q Expert Team: Is biogas the most efficient method of doing this? Not questioning biogas, but just curious. As for viability are there collectives that would be an easier sell?

A SimGas Team: 
To chill milk properly, down to 4°C within 3 hours, requires a relatively high amount of power (in the technical sense of a large amount of energy over a short period). Electricity would arguably be the best choice, but 85% of rural household in East Africa lack access to a (reliable) electricity grid and the grid connection rate is low. Using biogas as a renewable energy source for on-farm milk chilling in East Africa is a viable solution that anticipates on: 1) A lack of access to a (reliable) power grid; 2) A positive energy balance: the per-head production of cattle dung produces sufficient energy to cool down the per-head milk production; 3) Biogas is becoming an increasingly accepted and available energy source among smallholder dairy farmers. With the up-scaling of biogas digester dissemination a new, independent, energy source for milk chilling announced itself; 4) For a small-scale dairy producer, the investment costs for alternative energy sources, like generator sets or solar systems, is prohibitive; biogas systems show the lowest payback period in cost-benefit analysis among possible energy technologies for small-scale milk chilling. Our Biogas Milk Chiller uses the proven and reliable absorption cooling technology - which is not super-efficient - but we managed to get it to comply with the international milk cooling standard: cooling milk from 35ºC to 4ºC within 3 hours, which is 7x faster than regular refrigerators.

We have trouble understanding what you mean by “As for viability are there collectives that would be an easier sell?” Could you help us explain what you mean?

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Q Expert Team: I'd love to know what partnerships you have the ground.

A SimGas Team:
SimGas, Mueller BV, BoPInc and SNV Netherlands Development Organization entered into a consortium in March 2014 with the goal to develop, design and market a device for on-farm milk cooling that runs independently from the grid, using biogas as a source of energy.

SimGas BV (based in The Netherlands) and SimGas East Africa (based in Tanzania and Kenya) develop and design the product, and bring it to the market by setting up the entire business system and organization, from marketing, sales and finance, to distribution and customer service;
SNV has built a long-term local presence in 38 of the poorest countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. To date, their involvement worldwide (>20 countries) resulted in the commissioning of > 550,000 bio-digesters, out of which 50,000 in Africa. SNV has a strong portfolio in both dairy and biogas programs in Eastern Africa. Their role is in market analysis, capacity building, and promotion of the milk chillers;
Mueller BV is specialized in developing milk cooling tank equipment, and distributes its products in over fifty countries. They bring in sector expertise, experience in commercialization, and distribution channels;
BoP Innovation Centre provides business incubator services to companies operating in developing countries, and assists SimGas in marketing and market linkages in Europe and Africa.

To reach our first customers in East Africa, we plan to collaborate with the following commercial partners: Mueller (partner), milk processors, dairy cooperatives, national biogas programs, and biogas construction enterprises – all of with whom the first conversations have taken place.

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Q Expert Team: Do you have a sense of what these units might cost? The ROI for farmers?

A SimGas Team: 
The business case for the target customer is based on the additional income a farmer can get when he/she is able to sell evening milk to the dairy cooperative. An example of the viability of the milk chiller for the customer is shown based on actual farmer data from January 2014 at a milk collection center in Duga (Mkinga district, Tanga region), Northeast Tanzania (sample size: 165 farmers):

• 121 farmers do not bring evening milk to the MCC (73%);

• The average of milk deliveries in the morning is 9.1 L on average, while this is 7.3 L in the evening (80% of morning milk);

• The formal milk price in Duga at farmer gate is 640 Tanzania Shilling/L, which is 0.27 €/L;

• On average, 73% of the farmers can increase their income from milk sales by 80%, assuming limited informal market opportunities, when cooling the evening milk and delivering this milk the next morning to the milk collection center;

This means that the average farmer ‘earns’ €590 (or USD 660) per year by using the biogas milk chiller 300 days a year. Aiming for a payback period of 1 to 2 years, this gives us an idea of the limits of the market price for the milk chiller such that it is still affordable. Throughout the development of the biogas milk chiller, we aim to keep the cost price at a minimum without compromising on product quality and cooling performance.


Speaking of affordability: it is difficult for many small dairy farmers to have sufficient cash at hand to cover upfront investments. Financial products of banks, MFIs and SACCOs are often not suitable for investments in biogas product and appliances. To optimize the financial sustainability of the sales of biogas milk chillers to low income groups, we propose to offer revolving fund customer finance at arm’s length of the sales and installation process of the biogas-powered milk chillers. This will allow the smallholder dairy farmer to pay for the product in tranches, through a milk payback scheme. This will bring down their burden of upfront capital needs, making biogas-powered milk chillers available at a large scale, therewith making the product commercially viable. Biogas-powered milk chiller sales in combination with customer finance will also bring down investment risks for households and increase the overall acceptance of biogas milk chilling as a viable solution to cool milk.

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Q Expert Team:  Have you thought of offering a guarantee on the unit? Service agreement? What are your early thoughts?

A SimGas Team: 
A sale of our biogas systems comes with a 2-year warranty; installation service, training service, tailored lease-to-own finance and customer service (incl. SMS service). We plan to offer a similar warranty for the Biogas Milk Chiller; including installation service, a training service, technical maintenance service on a one year basis, customer service and a tailored milk payback scheme. Adding to this, we will install the first series with remote monitoring equipment. The integrated data loggers measure the biogas pressure from the digester, biogas consumption of the milk chiller, temperatures (ambient, refrigerant going to and from the milk cans, start milk cooling cycle). These parameters are measured to timely detect any technical failures, such that we can pro-actively schedule service visits at the customer.

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Q Expert Team: Looking forward to learning more!

A SimGas Team: We look forward to learn more too! :) 

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Dorine,
Thanks for the super-detailed responses! I think what the second question meant was why not target the collectives rather than individual farmers. I think that your responses get at the reason why! Thanks! 

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Dear Chioma, I see now what you meant! Just to clarify:

We target the dairy farmer and their affiliated dairy cooperatives (with their own network of collection centers), but in different ways and for different reasons:
The value proposition is initially directly to smallholder dairy farmer affiliated to dairy cooperative societies. Our solution is targeted to the dairy farmers because this is where the problem originates. Farmers live simply too far away from the market to deliver their (evening) milk before it spoils. The FAO estimates the resulting post-harvest milk losses, in terms of opportunity cost, at farm level at 30-40%. Our idea responds to a clear demand from smallholder dairy farmers, who currently have limited or no option to keep their evening milk produce fresh until the next morning, to increase their milk income significantly by improved access to secure markets for evening milk.

The gains for the collection centers, dairy cooperatives and dairy processors are a result of the solution at farm level: cooling at farm level will result in more evening milk supply to the dairy cooperatives, who will become more economically viable due to improved coverage of operational expenses. Subsequently, more milk collected at the cooperatives results in increased milk transport to the milk processor. The dairy processor in its turn, increases the intake of evening milk and therefore the utilization of its installed processing capacity. Besides the increase of raw milk supply into the dairy value chain, the project supports the transformation of the smallholder dairy sector in Eastern Africa from quantity- to quality-based performance, as milk cooling at farm level significantly increases milk quality. The increased quality of milk at the milk processor results in increased opportunities to process milk into higher value products, like cheese.


To reach the dairy farmers, we target their affiliated dairy cooperative societies (through close collaboration with associated dairy processors); the dairy cooperatives are our intended communication and sales channels, next to SimGas biogas hubs, product ambassadors (model farmers and extension workers) and selected biogas construction enterprises (BCEs). We intend to target our promotion and marketing campaigns to dairy cooperatives societies by providing them with promotional materials (e.g. product posters, flyers, infographics), by organising product demonstrations at their premises, and train product ambassadors among their members. Furthermore, we intend to utilize the existing financial infrastructure of the dairy cooperatives by providing milk payback schemes to the dairy farmers: they can pay off the Biogas Milk Chiller through milk installments (like dairy farmers are already used to for purchasing dairy cows, for instance).


Why would the dairy cooperatives and processors be willing to cooperate?

Dairy co-operatives: Functional benefits: increased loyalty of members for milk delivery, increased intake of evening milk (without increasing the milk collection frequency), reduced milk rejection, and reduced electricity use for cooling milk. Emotional benefits: feeling modern, image promotion of the co-operative to farmer; making their members feel proud to use modern equipment at their farms, strengthened image among their members.

Milk processors: Functional benefits: increased loyalty of farmers in evening milk delivery, increased intake of evening milk and therefore increased utilisation of installed processing capacity and improved quality of collected milk. Emotional benefit: feeling connected with milk producers, growing a stronger farmer connection.


I hope this answers the question more clearly!

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

It does, thank you! 

Photo of Japhet Aloyce Kalegeya
Team

Hi. Dorine, congratulations for making a good idea that intended to save food loss and wastage among small farmers. Food loss and wastage is the main challenges facing small farmers and make them remain to be poor.

How many users of this idea have you met with them?,
Who was the expert from this community have you talked with him?, What is the feedback have you received from him?

What are the impression and feedback have you received from this community? How a small farmer will be able to find this Biogas-Powered Milk Chiller? shall be provided free of charge?

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Thank you Japhet! 
Last year, four of dairy farmers living in Tanzania have tested our Biogas Milk Chiller prototypes, with whom the SimGas design team and operational team, and SNV local staff have met and have had fruitful conversations. Last May, our local team went back to visit them and ask them for new feedback considering the new version of the design.
Within this community we have gotten feedback from various members, and last week we received expert feedback from Chioma Ume  and her team. We haven't met her in person, but maybe we will one day; we definitely hope so! You can read her feedback in this comment feed. Soon we will also post our answers to all of her questions.
For the pilot of the 1st series of Biogas Milk Chillers in Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia by the end of this year, we plan to cooperate with various dairy processors and dairy cooperatives to connect with their members. SimGas has hub offices throughout Tanzania and Kenya as well, so we'll be close to our first customers.
As for your last question about whether or not the product shall be provided free of charge: SimGas is a triple bottom line company that takes social and environmental impact just as seriously as economic impact; we aim to prove that social entrepreneurship can be profitable, because we believe that is the way to for social enterprises to have a sustainable future. I am curious what your opinion is on this: Do you think it should be provided free of charge, and for what reasons? 

Photo of Yvonne Ngari
Team

Wow! thats the best idea of biogas because it will imcrease the production of livestock farmers and increase income for there will be no spoilage. 

Photo of Lia Bardoel
Team

Thanks Yvonne!

Photo of Maarten
Team

Nice proposal and the infographics look great too!

From my experience of working in East Africa, I know that the significant initial investment of having a biogas digester installed can be a challenge for many poor households. Maybe the extra income from selling more milk could be an extra incentive for dairy farmers to have a digester installed?

Good luck!

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Dear Maarten, thanks for your comment! Yes, we indeed hope that the utilisation of biogas for milk chilling might make biogas as a renewable energy source even more attractive for small holder dairy farmers!

Photo of Andrée
Team

Hello Dorine,

Very interesting idea! In one of the comments below you mention you are aiming to keep the cost price at a minimum. Will it be possible for farmers to buy the product in one transaction? Or is the product suitable to be financed with microfinancing?

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Hi Andrée, good question, thanks!
In our experience with our biogas systems, we have learned that our customers often find it a hurdle to make a full upfront payment in one transaction. We're therefore thinking about offering a lease-to-own option for the target customers so that they can pay off the system through milk installments, in cooperation with their Dairy Co-operatives. 

Photo of Kathambi
Team

Awesome! That's a brilliant idea on biogas  because it will be the best product for small scale farmers for it will increase the productivity of livestock and income hence promoting dairy farming for there be no proilage of milk.

Photo of Sabine
Team

Seems like the perfect product!

Photo of Gerrit Kalis
Team

A good, BASIC product for small scale farmers in Africa, Asia and so on. It looks very simple.

Photo of leah jeruto
Team

Yet another exiting  product  to change  lives in the rural set up.  I like  it Bravo I support. 

Photo of George
Team

I like the idea and it will be a great solution to challenges facing livestock  small scale farmers .They will be able to preserve the milk /other products in eco friendly,reliable and cost effective manner.It will also encourage farmers to install biogas digester  due to added advantage thus improving livelihood at large.

Photo of Shaniqua Akinyi
Team

Thinking about a world of stress free gas simgas gives the top list in solving the problem,I call it oneu install onces and enjoy the rest of your life enjoying the natural produt,SIMGAS KAZI TWENDE

Photo of Joseph Kisyoky
Team

Biogas is the the only thing I can think of for now and 30 years to come when I am thinking of clean and smart world. Lets try and find sometime to think about Biogas. If we all preach about Simgas means we are all think about SIMGAS. By Joseph Kisyoky. 

Photo of Ypie Nawijn
Team

A very convincing & powerful concept!  Your biogas Milk Cooling system solves 2 problems at the same time.  To reduce spoilage and to really improve lives where it's needed most;  in the small scale farming in Africa!

Photo of Paul Cook
Team

Hi Dorine, 
Really interesting idea!  Are you projecting that the farmers will cool the milk during transportation?  It seems like many small dairy farmers will have access to electricity and refrigeration.  I could see this technology being really useful at the community level or to create cold transportation boxes for produce.

I remember there being an issue with pathogens, but have you considered human waste or food scraps as feed stock?  If the gas is going into a semi-closed cycle, instead of to cooking gas, would this enable the issues with using human waste?  This would be life changing to so many rural Kenyans I know.    Thanks for posting. Looking forward to your response,  Paul   

Photo of Geert Koemans
Team

Hi Paul,
Using food scraps as feedstock for the digester is being done and it will be digested like any other organic material. Human 'toilet' waste as feedstock will also generate some biogas, although there are some hygiëne challenges around the biodigester and the effluent coming from it. I have never heard of any issue with pathogens from the gas, especially as it is being burnt eventually.
What pathogen issue do you mean exactly?
And you mean a safe processing of human waste would change the life of rural Kenyans?
Love to hear more,
Geert

Photo of Paul Cook
Team

Hi Geert,
You're correct, I believe the concerns are with using the effluent as compost if human waste was placed in the digester, not with burning it.  If one were able to convert a pit toilet into a means of refrigeration, that would be monumental.  Best of luck with the challenge!  Paul

Photo of Geert Koemans
Team

That would indeed be monumental! New challenge?

Photo of Joshua Wasua
Team

Why do i like the Simgas Biogas Milk chiller- i have seen farmers suffering in storing milk in my home district in kenya. Milk is only collected once a day by trucks from the dairy cooperatives. If a farmer misses the morning truck, he has to wait until the following day. By extension,  the days milk is wasted because there is no refrigerators or any other viable storage method.
Sometimes due to poor road network, the collection truck misses to visit the village for 3 days.
Due to the high supply of milk and low demand ( due to the fact that only co operatives can procure), the farmers sell the milk at a throw away prices.
I believe the simgas Biogas Chiller will assist farmers in storing the milk and by extension improve their livelihood by  offering storage till the collection trucks visits the village. The stored milk will also offer nutritional value to the farmers as they can store it for the consumption by the families.

Photo of Pauline Tanui
Team

As small scale farmer and user of  simgas biogas digester, the milk chiller can help reduce the wastage of milk and bring more income to the farmer, Milk processor only collect milk in the mornings,the afternoon milk go into waste because farmers dont have a market, but if they store in a milk chiller they can sell it to milk processors because it is still fresh.

Photo of Moses Gekera
Team

As the Country Manager of SimGas Kenya Ltd, I interacts mostly with our Biogas customers who cools their milk in water usage in the following day usage. This is a brilliant product for them. It will make their produce clean and increase in sales.

Photo of Jan van der Horst
Team

Useful new product with high chance to be successful because there is already a high acceptance of biogas installations by farmers and technical expertise to maintain these systems present in East Africa. I wish these products will also penetrate the Sahel countries like Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger where the culture of renewable energy products like biogas installations is far less developed but the need to do so is immense.

Photo of Sjoukje
Team

Great idea to design a small milk chiller that works on the small biogas system. In most cases it is too cumbersome to get the evening milk from remote farms to the dairy factory. Much better to get it there in the morning together with the morning milk. The chilling enhances the milk quality enormously. Uncooled milk cannot be used properly by the dairy factory and often has to be discarded. I am impressed that you guys managed to get the new type of chiller that is cheap and easy to install and that works on biogas ready to market so soon! Congratulations!

Photo of Simone Thoolen
Team

I love this project because of its simplicity and effectiveness. It solves many problems at the same time (ecological, economical, social). Ecological design is the future. Using renewable energy sources such as solar , wind , geothermal and bioenergy is the only way to save the earth.  I also believe in solving big problems on a smal scale. Step by step. This is an example. It works. And it gives local people influence: they have again power to change their own lives and environment.  As it should be. Solve problems on a smal scale basis and give power to the local people!

Photo of Harry van der Schoor
Team

I like this project because of the instant, short term, impact it can have on the sales capacity and the income of the farmers. This in contrast to many other projects which need a long time before seeing results of the investment.

Photo of Hilde
Team

Very good idea, I hope it will take off!

Photo of Fabio
Team

The importance of more availability of milk for small children cannot be overestimated. The SimGas initiative of the milk cooler is a very important step in diminishing subnutrition in Africa and other continents.

Photo of Benjamin Cok
Team

Very promising idea, with great potential to benefit the entire dairy value chain in Eastern Africa! As an renewable energy advisor for SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, I have worked on market assessments for the biogas-powered milk chiller in Eastern Africa. During these studies it became more and more clear to me that this innovation is not only highly appreciated by its direct beneficiaries, the small scale farmers, but is also very much welcomed by dairy actors along the value chain, like dairy cooperatives and processors.

Photo of Hetty Breetvelt
Team

Is this cooler also working on kerosine? 

Photo of Hetty Breetvelt
Team

Is this coöperatie alsof working onze kerosine? 

Photo of kasper koemans
Team

Een heel goed initiatief, waarbij het leven voor de boeren hoopvoller wordt.

Photo of Oliver Kynaston
Team

Great to see the Chiller getting some attention here. As COO for Simgas I've seen the development of this product from blueprint to reality. The small scale dairy farmers in my community are demanding appropriate, modern and affordable solutions to improve their farms and their incomes - the chiller ticks all the boxes! Can't wait to see the next batch here in East Africa.

Photo of Steven
Team

Super goed idee!

Photo of Laurens Poelhekke
Team

Using 'waste' to reduce waste! Great idea, good luck!

Photo of William Morris
Team

Hi, 

Really love the project, think that the rural application of AD can go along way to alleviated issues of energy poverty in affected areas. I have previously done work in AD in rural areas, it was however, only desk based research, sadly didn't get out in the field. However, one of the issues I encountered was in regards to the sustained upkeep of technologies after implementation. Biogas is, of course, highly toxic and flammable and therefore poorly maintained can lead to considerable problems. I was wondering how, alongside implementing the technology itself, you go about educating the local farmer in the maintenance and up keep of the technology? In order to achieve the long term impact and sustainability of this project, this would seem to me to be a vital aspect to implementation. I note below that your teams do maintenance but with plans to upscale do you expect that to reach capacity and as a result do you see the farmer themselves as the key to sustained up keep? 

Awesome project, keep up the good work, and really look forward to hearing more.  

Photo of Maarten Kalis
Team

Hi William. Thank you for your feedback and interest in this product. We agree that care should be taken while working with biogas. It is indeed flammable, however, it is the hydrogen sulfide in the biogas that is toxic and corrosive when present in high concentrations. Therefor we will install a hydrogen sulfide filter with every milk chiller. The filter will remove this contaminant, ensuring safe use. Biogas leakage risks are adressed by proper gas parts and a flame safety device that will automatically shut off the biogas flow in case the flame is blown out by wind for example.
We believe in product ownership; the farmer needs to be proud of his or her product, ensuring that it will be treated accordingly. Our experience is that even when the product is well taken care off, there are limits to what can be expected from the owner. For now we intend to offer service to every milk chiller we sell, even when we scale up. And we have an excellent local team to do that. 

Photo of Thomas van der Schoor
Team

I'm convinced that this user centered design approach will lead to interesting insights and a good product!

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Yes! Our video 'SimGas Biogas Milk Chiller feedback sessions in the field' is online! What do small dairy farmers Mama Alinda Massawe and Mama Jennifer Mushi have to say about our new Biogas Milk Chiller design? Watch and learn! :)
https://youtu.be/MRlBsdGDoOw 

Photo of Jeroen Thoolen
Team

No product in the market yet, and still user feedback! Great to see SimGas' empathy for his customers!

Photo of Jur Nawijn
Team

Sound as a good system!

Photo of I. Amersfoort
Team

This can work!

Photo of Hifadhi Calm
Team

Very practical as it uses available resources for a dairy farmer!

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Missed you chance to vote in the poll? No worries: you can leave your comment here! 

What do you like best about our Biogas Milk Chiller product?
A) It cools down raw milk super fast and keeps it fresh!
B) It is powered by biogas produced from cow manure!
C) It can increase a dairy farmer's milk sales!
D) It has a tailored cooling capacity for farmers with 2-10 dairy cows!
E) Its design looks very cool!
F) Other:

Photo of Laura Nawijn
Team

B: great idea to use the biogas for these different uses!

Photo of Steven Leo
Team

Great concept! Especially the innovative way of removing heat from the milk by using a reliable proven product to your advantage! 

Photo of Jeroen Thoolen
Team

Very nice to see that much attention has been paid to the user interaction: clear user-interface and ergonomic placement of the holder for the two 5L milk cans!

Photo of Lisa Cornelisse
Team

After spending a day in the field and talking to dairy farmers in Machame (Kilimanjaro region, Tanzania) I am even more enthusiastic about this product. People are excited about the product, are happy and keen on testing the milk chiller. They all highlight the benefit of saving a lot of time (2-4 hours a day!). One customer told me she wants to start up her own business if she has more time and another lady said that she wants to spend the time that she can save in helping her children with their homework. Keep up the good work! 

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Thanks Lisa Cornelisse and Joseph Kisyoky for your great work in the field! These are some good insights! 

Photo of Geert Koemans
Team

Lekker bezig lisa

Photo of Paul
Team

Love the concept with great market potential

Photo of Lia Bardoel
Team

In the past two weeks the team in the Netherlands and Tanzania have worked together to gain feedback from two of our customers on the new design. These two customers have tested two prototypes about a year ago. They were very pleased to see the new design.

Today this movie will be published here. Stay tuned...

Photo of Sanne Castro
Team

Hi,

Thanks for your feedback so far! We are working on "the missing link" in the dairy chain in East Africa: Cooling on site where the cows are. Withiout this link it is very hard to get fresh milk to the bulking centres and eventually to the dairy factories. While there is huge demand for milk products and over-capacity in most dairy factories. Supply shortage is really an issue.

And, of course, when you can supply more of a higher quality product, your income also increases. This can be a big thing for dairy farmers in East Africa!

Looking forward to even more feedback on our ideas :-)

Thanks!

Cheers,

Sanne

Photo of Annemarie Van Mossel
Team

Really nice how the idea for the product was born based on the needs expressed by small dairy farmers in East Africa, and how these customers have been involved in the development of the idea.

Photo of Maarten Kalis
Team

The great thing about the absorption cooling technology that is applied to this product is that there are no moving parts. This technology has proven itself already for many decades, ensuring a durable and long lasting solution for these smallholder farmers.

Photo of Daan Molkenboer
Team

Wonderfull!! This is a really great example of using technology to change lives. It is good to see what innovation can do. Keep up the good work!

Photo of Liza Hendriks
Team

Cool idea!

Photo of Bastiaan van Wijk
Team

Great initiative and hope it can be scaled up to benefit more farmers!

Photo of Mark Studer
Team

Wow cool idea, i was wondering regarding the feedback you recieved on making it more user friendly. How steap is the learning curve for the user, since it is a new system. And do you also take that that education into account in the design? Cheers Mark

Photo of Bob Spikman
Team

Brilliant! 

Photo of Vegetable Resource Centre
Team

Can the biogas be used also to preserve perishables like vegetables?

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Cool idea! Perhaps its possible! If we can cool milk using biogas, why not vegetables too?

Photo of Willem Boers
Team

The milk cooler looks great and seems like a very useful technology for dairy farmers. It is indeed difficult for a lot of farmers to bring cooled evening milk into the market and as a consequence quality of milk is compromised. Also income is missed.  Before I make a comment on how to upscale the milk cooler I like to have a few questions answered: how much biogas (liters per day or litres per litre of milk cooled) is required for cooling 2-10 liters of milk; what is the minimum amount of cow dung required to generate that amount of gas and what size biogas digester is needed for that;  does the farmer has addtional needs for the biogas besides using the biogas for the milk cooler, what are the investment cost for a dairy farmers and what are the assumed maintenance cost, how maintenance free is the technology itself, does it require regular service, how robust is the milk cooler, how much extra income (USD/litre milk) will the dairy farmers get when offering cooled milk to the market, what is the average travel time from the dairy farmer homestead to the to the collection centers, how is the quality of milk being tested when receiving the milk at the milk collection centres?  

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Thank you Willem Boers for your interest and all your questions! We’re happy to answer them and we’re curious about your ideas on how to upscale our biogas milk chiller!


About the amount of biogas needed: The daily manure from one dairy cow is sufficient to cool her own daily milk. The amount of biogas available depends on the availability of feedstock and the size of the digester.

About a farmer’s additional energy needs: For a small scale farmer without access to a (reliable) electricity grid, biogas is a great solution to fulfil their energy needs. One of which is cooking on biogas: this is a clean and healthy alternative for cooking on wood or charcoal.

About the investment costs: We are still in the product development phase during which we aim to keep cost price at a minimum without compromising on quality and performance.

About maintenance and robustness: We design the product such that it would require very low maintenance. The design has a closed cooling system and is therefore expected to be very robust, user friendly and reliable. Our operations team in East Africa aim to do regular quality control check-ups on the biogas milk chillers.

About extra income generation by using the biogas milk chiller: The biogas milk chiller gives the user the opportunity to prevent 10L of (evening) milk per day from spoilage. These 10L of milk that previously was at risk of being rejected, can now be sold, and thereby generate extra income.

About average travel time for milk delivery: The average travel time is irrelevant; the biogas milk chiller is a solution for those farmers that would rather avoid spending the time, effort and risk (of gender-based violence) to deliver their evening milk in the pitch dark to their collection center.

About testing milk quality: This differs per collection center; common tests are alcohol tests, lactometer tests, sight-smell-taste tests, and the Resazurin test.

Photo of Vegetable Resource Centre
Team

I'd like to know how your Biogas milk chiller can increase a dairy farmer's milk sales. I haven't seen one like it and this will surely help millions of farmers in Kenya and the other countries listed above. I like the fact that it uses biogas and its capacity to cool milk from 2 to 10 dairy cows! Awesome

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Thank you Vegetable Resource Centre for your positive comment!!
A brief answer to your question about how the biogas-powered milk chiller can increase milk sales: the milk chiller device enables small holder dairy farmers without access to a (reliable) electricity grid to maintain, and deliver, and sell the highest possible quality of raw milk by chilling raw milk down from 35°C down to 4°C within 3 hours, on their own farm, using biogas. With milk chilling available on-farm and off-grid, their evening milk will not go sour overnight; it will maintain its quality. The risk of milk rejection (and thus milk spoilage) at their milk collection center is therefore eliminated, which will increase their milk sales.

Photo of Geert Koemans
Team

A! - Nice piece of work on the cooling system; cooling down the milk in a short time with just one small flame of biogas; haven't seen something like this before

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Click the link to view the results of the poll about what people like best about the Biogas Milk Chiller design!

https://apps.facebook.com/my-polls/view/2oc1ff5onis62xwlnhpp