Helping low-income people in rural areas and at the same time doing a ‘grain of sand’ to combat climate change are two great challenges, and both the Mexican company Sistema.bio is facing.
The firm manufactures biodigesters, which are containers in which organic matter, such as cattle manure, is entered and results in the generation of biogas, mainly methane, which is used to start a stove to run machine engines.
His motivation is to ‘lend his hand’, as they say in Mexico, and provide a professional service to communities that are not used to that, says his co-founder Camilo Pagés.
“We literally go into the kitchen. We do an analysis of your home, your way of life, your relationship with waste, with energy, with your agricultural production, with your food, and based on that we show you a product. They value that very much and commit even more to what they are acquiring. It changes their lives ”, he explains in an interview.
Camilo Pagés, co-founder of Sistema.Bio, during his interview with Yahoo Finanzas at the company’s factory in Toluca, State of Mexico.
Sure, here you have questions, which I will answer to better explain how it works.
Where and with what is the biodigester made?
Currently they are produced only in Toluca, State of Mexico. And it is made of a very strong, yet flexible bio-polyethylene membrane. The material can last more than 20 years, and the firm gives a guarantee of 10 years.
How is biogas generated?
Cattle excrement is entered into the container. Inside, an anaerobic environment is generated, that is, without oxygen. In the process, bacteria develop that live just without oxygen and their function is to break down organic matter into smaller compounds until it is degraded, thus generating fuel.
Is only biogas generated?
No, the process also results in organic matter that turns into biol, a fertilizer that can be used in crops, or in soil remediation.
“The user has their daily biogas production with which they can cook, heat water or in slightly larger productions they have fuel to start engines, milking machines, shellers (…) and they have their fertilizer, their biol, for their crops” , Pagés details.
“It is also to give this treatment to organic matter or organic waste, which would otherwise be polluting because greenhouse gases are produced (…) It is a system for treating and capturing greenhouse gases. So, it is an environmental solution and a solution that gives energy and fertilizer independence to users ”, he adds.
The support they give to people is also reflected in the financing they grant to acquire biodigesters which, as Pagés himself says, “pay for themselves”.
They come in different sizes, according to the needs of users, and prices range from $ 500 to $ 30,000.
Here you probably have other questions:
What does the price include? AND How is the financing?
It includes “a diagnosis to assign or propose the appropriate size, take it, install it, teach you how to use it and visits. There is a program of service visits after installation ”, the Mexican businessman responds.
And financial support is given depending on the user profile. They adjust the loan payments according to the savings that they are projected to have over time. For example, a $ 500 system has a return on investment of 16-24 months.
“The larger the system, the savings are greater and the return time is shorter (…) It is paid only because if you have crops you have to buy fertilizer by force to have an adequate yield of your crops. And to cook or heat water you need fuel, so with Sistema.bio they can be self-sufficient in that sense, or lower consumption. So the savings are immediate ”, Pagés highlights.
A farmer on his farm joins one of the biodigesters manufactured and installed by Sistema.Bio. Image: courtesy of Sistema.Bio.
The entrepreneur emphasizes that one of the most relevant changes that he has seen generated by his company is that it changes the ‘chip’ of children towards the future.
“The most beautiful thing is that you see the children, the new generations. Obviously for them it is going to be normal to live with a biodigester. For them, the concept of manure is no longer a waste, it is already a resource, so that is the strongest impact we can have, leave that to the new generations ”.
Awards, the ‘incubator’ of the company
Sistema.bio formally started in 2009, after winning first place in a competition for companies with social impact.
“They gave us a prize of 10,000 euros, and with that we set up the company. We made the first website, we got an angel investor and we started (in 2010) to manufacture the system ”, says Pagés.
Then, in 2011, they participated in ‘Iniciativa México’, another contest in which the Mexican government and the country’s main media collaborated.
In this event, the firm obtained second place and a prize of 15 million pesos (currently equivalent to about 770 thousand dollars), but above all it helped them in the dissemination.
“Our job (work) at the beginning, and it continues to be here in Mexico, but at the beginning more, it was to educate the people, the market, what this technology is, what the Sistema.bio is. Initiative Mexico helped us communicate massively. In Iniciativa México, you were on television, on radio, it helped us a lot to explain to people what a biodigester was, which was practically unknown, ”says Pagés.
The company has been overcoming obstacles – financing, the knowledge of its technology, and in the case of Mexico the dependence of the field on government subsidies – to gradually consolidate and expand its operations to places like India or Kenya.
“The set of these three elements was a challenge, and it continues to be a challenge here in Mexico, not so much in other markets where conditions are different, but in Mexico and Latin America it continues to be a challenge.”
An international company
Of course, Pagés enjoys what he says is the best moment of the company that has 10 years of life.
“Now we are a global company, already 200 employees or more, offices on 4 continents, important investors. So right now is undoubtedly the most interesting moment. We are at a time to scale and take what we are doing to other levels, to evolve the model, which has been in constant evolution, but right now we are at a critical point of being able to scale it further ”.
Currently the company has more than 7 thousand biodigesters in place, with a reach of 45 thousand users, in Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Cuba, Haiti, Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Uganda, Sudan from the south, Madagascar, India, the United Kingdom and Canada.
Their goal is that in two years they will reach 200 thousand users, and for this they have plans to expand their business in Africa, based on the offices in Kenya, and in India, where they even plan to install a plant to manufacture the systems.
“We divide our market into three segments. One is the smallest producer (…) the subsistence farmer and uses our smallest systems. The second segment are slightly larger producers, who already have a livestock activity, perhaps productive (…) And the third segment are larger farms, they are micro companies, which have from 50 cows, up to 200 cows or 1,000 or 2,000 pigs ”, explains the businessman.
Finally, Pagés leaves a tip from entrepreneur to entrepreneur:
That “consider in your business model to have or seek the triple bottom line. That at the same level of importance seeks a social impact, an environmental impact and an economic impact so that the business is sustainable. That in his model he considers these three results at the same level, not as something extra ”.
Hispanic Heritage Month
This video and article are part of a special series that the Yahoo Finance team has put together to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in America. It is dedicated to raising awareness of Latino and Hispanic entrepreneurs whose business projects are focused on improving the lives of people and society. Below you can see more reports: