Investor turns sugarcane and rice waste into money earner
Posted Sunday, June 17 2012 at 13:54
At the heart of Muhoroni in Western Kenya’s sugar belt, Dinesh Tembhekar is living to the adage ‘‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’’
Tembhekar is an entrepreneur who is turning sugarcane and rice waste into a source of fuel.
While other countries have been making several products from bagasse, the by-product of sugarcane after the juice is extracted, Kenya has lagged behind. When Tembhekar started his consultancy firm Lean Energy Solutions Ltd in 2006, he did not know that it would earn him a decent income. Now he runs a separate company that turns waste into steam fuel.
Then, it was a consultancy firm that dealt with big corporate companies, helping them reduce the cost of energy.
He recalls: “Coca Cola and Unilever were some of my first clients.’’ Mr Tembhekar said that he did energy audits for the firms and built his own operations in the process.
Then a business idea struck him. Sugarcane waste and rice husks were what he would later use to make a cheaper source of fuel that would provide steam for use by companies to reduce costs.
A team of engineers at Lean Energy Solutions Ltd imported boilers from India and installed them in the respective companies once they had signed contracts.
The company buys 20 tonnes of sugarcane waste and rice husks daily, which are used as raw materials.
“Our monthly expenditure on raw materials is about Sh102,000, which is way below what we get as returns”, said Mr Evans Kutai, the firm’s supervisor. The company only sells steam fuel.
“If a company uses diesel to produce steam at the cost of Sh6 per kg, I charge Sh5 per kg by using my boilers to produce steam for them,” said Mr Tembhekar.
Mr Kutai runs daily operations of the firm.
“We have a logistics officer who transports rice husks and sugarcane remains from sugar factories in Muhoroni to the company at a fee,’’ he said.
“We buy the bagasse and rice husks at Sh170 per tonne and mix them in the ratio of 4:1 respectively after drying them under the sun.”
Mrs Beatrice Awiti, 36, is an employee at the firm whose main task is to dry the bagasse and rice husks. “I have worked at the company for about five months and I am paid depending on the number of bags of waste that I dry per day. I get at most Sh1,500 per week,” she said.
“We sell the steam to companies like Coca Cola,” said Mr Tembhekar. According to Mr Tembhekar the product is eco-friendly, high in calories, has low ash content of about six to eight per cent, and can be used as fertiliser.
Apart from being easy to transport, the steam is environment friendly and contains no sulphur.
“I was inspired to help people use green energy because of high fuel costs and the constant worry of environmental degradation”, Mr Tembhekar said.
Universal Corporation Kikuyu Pharmaceutical Company was the first to hire his services. The firm’s managers were not disappointed and remain faithful clients to date, Mr Tembheka said.