A US$ 80,000 grant from Heza has enabled the Rwandan clean cooking firm BioMassters to expand its biomass pellet production ten-fold. This will allow the firm to produce enough pellets to serve 10,000 households.
BioMassters was formed by six former members of the management team at the clean cooking firm Inyenyeri. The company has been operating since early 2021 in pilot mode, serving 300 customers as it raises scaling capital.
BioMassters had been making pellets on a small scale using several small, 30 year old pellet presses that were prone to frequent breakdown. In a good 8 hour shift, they could make about 1 ton of pellets.
“To reach the next stage in our growth plan, to serve additional customers, and to attract further investment, we needed to substantially expand production capacity,” says Jan de Graaf, COO of BioMassters. “This grant from Heza came at a critical time,” he adds. “It covered the purchase and installation of a refurbished pellet press with the capacity to produce 1 ton of pellets per hour.”
The new press, along with some additional equipment, was recently installed at the company’s factory in Rubavu, in the northwest corner of Rwanda. It is expected to produce 10 to 12 tons of pellets per shift.
Until now, the company has been limited to producing pellets from sawdust. The addition of two hammer mills at the factory enables them to break down other feedstocks like sticks and agricultural wastes into small enough particles to press into pellets. This provides critical flexibility and allows the firm to operate with a diverse range of biomass supplies. See two short videos of the factory here, narrated by BioMassters’ Director of Production Innocent Nsekeyukunze.
“The factory expansion is already generating a lot of benefit,” says Claudia Muench, CEO of BioMassters. “Within a week of installing the new equipment we received several Rwandan government officials. They were pleased by our progress and pledged to support our ongoing growth. Since installing the new machines we saw an instant improvement in our pellet quality, and managed to secure two orders for pellets from third parties, one in Kenya and the other in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Serving wholesale customers is a great way for us to generate pellet revenue and optimize our production capacity while we build our customer base in Rwanda.”
The firm recently ordered 1200 MimiMoto gasifier stoves and hopes to soon order more. With the new stoves and expanded pellet production capacity, the company can start to sign up new customers, hundreds of whom have been on a waitlist for many months.
The Heza grant helped two firms at once. BioMassters purchased the refurbished pellet press and additional equipment from Emerging Cooking Solutions (ECS), another pioneering pellet gasification cooking firm, based in Zambia. ECS CEO Mattias Ohlson says “Selling the 1 ton per hour press to BioMassters allowed us to expand our production by installing a 2.5 ton press, upgrade our electrical system, and free up cash for other critical needs. The sector is so small, and the need is so great that whenever the few companies in this space have a chance to help one another it’s a win for all concerned.”
Heza has also provided a grant to ECS, for production and field testing of prototype models of a new cookstove it has developed. For more on this important new stove development, watch for another blog post coming soon.