It all started with a simple question, “Can we do something with all the millions of tons of veldt grass being burned every year in Southern Africa?” We believed the answer was yes, and we set off on the long and winding journey toward a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.
The Grass Eco-Brick
Our quest for a solution led us to develop a grass eco-brick using a heat and pressure process without any binding material. Our eco-brick represented a tremendous solution for utilizing Veldt Grass but, unfortunately, the market acceptability was low because people still preferred to use clay brick.
The Char-Brick and Jenga PowaStove
We believe that each problem simply presents us with a new puzzle to solve – converting one product into another higher-value, the more market-desired product became our core competency. By carbonizing the Grass- Brick through our initial batch pyrolysis plant we upgraded the Grass-Brlck to a Bio-Charcoal-Brick with a very high energy value. This Charcoal-Brick was an ideal carbon-neutral fuel for our next innovation – an additional and vertically integrated market for our Charcoal-Brick branded the Jenga PowaStove a Combined Heat & Power (CHP) unit that concurrently generates enough heat for a 4-plate stove, a 2-level oven, a warm-water tank, a space heater (when required) and small fridge; and, the waste heat from this unit powered a thermal electricity generator that generates sufficient power for 5-lights, TV, 3 cell-phone chargers and radio.
A Socially Acceptable Solution
We demonstrated the Jenga PowaStove to the South African government and found that its social acceptability was very high. Our idea was to use abundant veldt grass and Invasive Alien Plants (IAP) as feedstock to produce char-bricks to run our Powastove to serve households not connected to the National Electricity Grid.
The Value-Added Products
During our brick-making efforts, we quickly realized that we were also producing large quantities of excess gas, to the point that we were concerned that we were going to blow up the building. Seeing this as an opportunity, we developed methods to extract and separate the excess gases being generated. It was this experience that gave us the technical knowledge that we have now incorporated into our full-scale commercial process that is operating today. This experience has also provided us the capability to produce far more products from the same ton of biomass than virtually any of our competitors.
From Local Solution to Global Technology
Our story is a testament to the power of ingenuity and determination. What began as a humble attempt to develop a local solution to a problem has evolved into a technology that can produce Biochar, Green Chemicals, and Sustainable Fuels from a broad spectrum of biomass and waste resources in a carbon-negative process.