Interview with Kimani Gichuche for SDG #8

Kimani Gichuche

Executive Director

Adili Solar Hubs Limited

Kimani Gichuche

Executive Director

Author Biography

Evan Kimani Gichuche, is a Christian entrepreneur specializing in solar energy. He is passionate about excellence, integrity and diligence and demonstrates it in how he handles himself and those around him. His vision is to have impacted his community by providing them with reliable technological solutions, increasing their income and quality of life.

Kimani’s interest in engineering started early. He was admitted at the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DKUT) where he attained two degrees; Telecommunications and Information Engineering and; Electrical and Electronics Engineering. Notably, he spent his long holidays working on construction sites to gain experience.

Over the years, Kimani has served in several capacities within construction and engineering. His first company was Equatorial Energies implementing >3MW. However, he left when due to other founders insisting to unethical business practices. He was later employed to construct 2*48MW solar plants and owners site manager. He later resigned and started Adili Solar hubs to bring clean energy to rural communities advancing their economic gains and quality of life. Kimani is a firm believer that in order to transform others, you have to transform thyself. He spends time mentoring others and is also involved in other community-based activities such as rotary club

Q1. What was your company’s unique approach in integrating technology to achieve UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)?

Adili Solar Hubs uses clean energy to deploy productive use of energy (PUE) solutions in the water and food sectors to elevate the economies of marginalized communities. Our pilot sustainable Tech solution is a Fish processing and a water treatment facility in Longech, a Peninsular that can only be accessed via a 4*4 vehicle or boat to the nearest gravel road. The location has no access to clean water residents by water from the mainland at $0.8 per 20L jerrican, which is 16 times more expensive than the cost of water in an urban location. To establish a fish processing facility, we require to draw water from a well and treat via desalination. At the Longech cold chain hub, we have set up a water treatment facility, an ice making machine and cold storage room all powered by solar energy.


Lake Turkana has an abundant supply of fish with a maximum sustainable yield of 30,000MT of fish but currently underutilized at 8500MT per year. The fisherfolk suffered spoilage and lack of fresh fish market they were forced to dry the fish which reduces the market value by 3-4 times what they would sell it fresh. Lack of cold chain facilities in the region limit the amount of fish that can be traded fresh. This has therefore hindered economic growth in the region.


Our fish processing hub has addressed these issues resulting to increased gains for the fisherfolk by 3 times the rate of fresh catch at the landing site. The hub created an all year ready market of fish for the fisherfolk. Fisher are also assured of pay within 24 hours of supply of their catch to us. This gives them additional security. We have created an electronic inventory system which enables real time inventory and data sharing with sales teams, purchasing teams, technical staff and managers. This also doubles in in traceability of our suppliers (fisherfolk) data collected could be used by financial institutions for facilitating loans and financial services to them.


On the technology we have integrated IoT based monitoring of energy, temperatures, solar generation. This data shall be used in making price adjustment, financial computation, energy efficiency monitoring and addressing overall plant efficiency.

 

Q2. What are some examples of SDG-focused projects that your company is currently working on?

To ensure that our primary product, fish, arrives at the point of sale in urban markets fresh, we integrate multiple SDG focused projects. We can breakdown our SDG focused activities as follows:

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth:

By providing a ready market for the fisherfolk at their landing sites at Lake Turkana our project provides decent work and economic growth for the community.

Conventionally, the fisherfolk in Longech could only sell their fish as dried, salted, smoked, or fried product. While the shelf life of traditionally preserved fish is long, the market value is low. The nutritional value and taste is also diminished through the traditional preservation methods.

Secondly, the method, duration, and cost of preparing dried fish for sale was a burden carried by the fisherfolk and their representatives. Any losses incurred during preparation was borne by the fisherfolk.

Our tech solution significantly shortens the road to market for fisherfolk products. We buy the fish at the landing sites and immediately begin processing at our facility. We take the responsibility of gutting, scaling, cleaning, and preserving the fish and free the fisherfolk from the accompanying risks. Our fisherfolk only need to bring us their fish fresh off the boat to receive their payments.

By sourcing high demand urban markets for the fresh fish, we can attract better last mile prices for the Turkana Wild Catch fish. In adherence to our core values of integrity and fairness, we translate the profits to offer our fisherfolk better prices for the quality fish they provide us. We currently buy a kilogram of fish at about three to four times the price of dried fish per Kg. As such, our fisherfolk make a higher income for more decent work with lower risks and less activity.

We have made it our policy to keep track of our fisherfolks’ supply data and make payments on the same day of delivery where possible. We make payments through our mobile money, Mpesa app. This method not only provides us with real time data on fisherfolk trends but also generates data that can prove the creditworthiness or bankability of fisherfolk who wish to access finance or other credit services.

SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Our fisherfolk benefit from better prices for their product because we can deliver the fresh fish to urban markets 800 Km away. As a technology company, we free the fisherfolk by bearing the investment costs and risks of enhancing the value of the Turkana fish through modern cold chain management services that are high energy consuming and require technical expertise to maintain.

SDG 9: Industry Innovation and Infrastructure

We have taken an innovative approach to the implementation of our sustainable technology. We implement IoT technology to monitor the operation of all our equipment these include our cold room, ice flake machine, RO water purification system, water flow, and others. Since we plan to scale up our pilot project into a commercial off grid fish processing centre, it is crucial that we keep track of all our data points.

Before implementing our system, we had no example or best practice cases of three phase ice flaking machines being powered by solar energy. Now, our system is an example of how to successfully integrate solar to power an ice flaking machine in off grid locations with high ambient temperatures.
The IoT also helps us monitor and report on activity at remote sites and share real time data with project partners, well-wishers and other interested parties across the globe.

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

For hygienic processing we need to integrate water treatment facilities in a region where there is no access to clean water. As such we installed a well with a solar powered pump to supply our facility with raw water which we also supply to the nearby school for their non-potable use. We have set up a pilot RO water treatment unit for purifying the water we use onsite. Our scale up plan will expand our equipment to provide potable drinking water to the community.

SDG 14: Life Below Water

The current practice in the local fishing community is to dump the waste generated when cleaning and gutting the fish into the lake. The common belief is that the fish waste acts as feed for the live fish in the lake. Yet, studies show that dumping fish waste in a water body can be toxic for the live fish, puts a strain on the water’s oxygen content and can suffocate organisms that live on the sea bed.

We are implementing a fish waste management program to upcycle the fish waste we generate during our operations. We will feed the organic waste generated from gutting and cleaning the fish into a biodigester which will generate biogas and an organic effluent that can be used for irrigating and fertilizing a vegetable garden. Proof of this operation will open opportunities to upcycle the waste. Further research and collaboration on fish waste upcycling will enable us to provide better results towards improving the quality of life below water along the shores of lake Turkana.

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

We have created a new value chain in the Turkana wild catch fish industry by providing fresh fish where the lake was known for the supply of dried fish. Through the cost benefits affords to us by our sustainable tech, we have been able to drop the price of fresh fish in the urban markets while maintaining its flavor and quality. Access to more affordable high-quality fish and reducing post-harvest losses in the fish value chain is a win for SDG 2 in the fish industry.

 

Q3. What are the most difficult challenges your company and other companies face generally in the implementation/adoption of new sustainable technology?

High quality sustainable technology often has high investment costs. These costs create a financial barrier that need support from financing and credit organizations. Yet, it is challenging to convince financing originations with rigid structures about the bankability of novel sustainable technology. Acquiring state of the art technology with excellent ROIs and prove cases for scalability are among the most difficult challenges to overcome in our settings.

Access to the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to implement advanced sustainable technology is also a challenge in our settings. A lot of novel technology needs rigorous training and continuous technical support to achieve optimal performance through its lifespan. Yet, implementation of such technology in rural marginalized communities needs specialized training in many cases.

 

Q4. Tell me about a time your sustainable tech helped another company realize their SDG goals.

Our solar powered water pumping tech for improved water access enables us to provide the neighboring school with water in their tank. Initially the pupils had to come with water from their homes or go fetch from the lake. With this ready supply of water, the pupils only have to carry books to school contributing to SDG 4: Quality education and 6: Clean water and sanitation for the school.

In our expansion plan we will us to scale up our RO technology enabling us to the entire community with clean potable water as well as Raw water for nonportable use.

By incorporating electronic inventory system, the beach management and County department fisheries gain access to the fisheries data from the beaches we serve. Contributing to SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

 

Q5. What is the biggest challenge your company has handled while enabling your sustainable tech accessible to different communities?

I. Bureaucracy

Implementation bottlenecks maintained by certain local authorities create avenues for impunity and personal interests during social acceptance negotiations. While the communities may be receptive and recognize the value of the new technology, bureaucratic bottlenecks can slow down the implementation process significantly.

ii. Securing the cold chain of custody throughout the supply chain of fresh fish from source to market is costly.

To minimize losses along the value chain increases the investment requirements such as:

  • Providing fisher folk with ice flakes and cool boxes to preserve the fish during their fishing expeditions
  • Acquiring reefer truck to minimize post-harvest losses during delivery of fish to market
  • Establishing fish depots in urban markets to increase shelf life and market resilience of the fish before sale

iii. Access to hi-tech consumable materials (refrigerant/ RO filtration membranes)

High performing consumable components for sustainable tech such as are not easily accessible especially in the African market. Even if you want to use the best environmentally friendly technology the accessibility hinders you and lack of technicians with experience dealing in the technology and systems. Such products include

  • Lowest emissions refrigerant gases e.g. R452A
  • Quality RO filtration membranes

 

Q6. Cost-effective sustainable tech can be lifesaving and planet-saving approach. What actions your company takes to make your sustainable tech economical and a fit for the large-scale adoption?

Our project is a pilot for a commercial facility. We facilitate live demonstrations on how the system works and incorporate world class monitoring solutions that can show energy consumption and trends from our equipment. This approach creates avenues for Monitoring & Evaluation Learning (MEL) and enables proof of bankability of the technology.

The incorporation of IoT and MEL provides data and proof of bankability for access to finance and economic support for scalability of similar projects.

Our model shifts the heavy investments of commercial cold chain facilities from fishing groups to the technology company. We bear the risks of implementation, integration, operation and maintenance of the sustainable tech instead of the fisherfolk groups.

Our model moves from selling the product to providing the collection, processing and cold chain maintenance of the fish as a service to the fisher folk and end buyers. We provide services that bridge the gap between fisherfolk at Lake Turkana and fresh fish consumers in urban markets.

We carry the investment costs, technology risks and personnel management and in a model that exerts minimal pressure for performance on the fisherfolks. Through our skill set and experience, we Build, Own and Operate (BOO) our projects to ensure homogeneity, replicability and the economic sustainability for large scale adoption of the tech.

 

Q7. What do you believe will be a global, long-term, impact of your sustainable tech integration?

Establishment of multiple hubs along lake Turkana landing sites, our model uses hubs that are replicable and multipliable. The impact will be multiplied across 5 landing sites of lake Turkana.

We have identified 5 fish landing sites along the shores of Lake Turkana with active Beach Management Units (BMUs), where solar cold hubs such as ours could thrive and serve the community well based on our model. Our pilot hub has proven the potential and viability of our solution. With access to finance, the Adili Cold Hubs are replicable and deployable on the selected landing sites around the lake.

Replication of the same in fish landing sites in other lakes and ocean landing sites will disrupt the fish processing to being done at the point of landing rather than in the capital cities.

We aim to set the standard for cold chain fish processing facilities in marginalized communities. In our operations we aim to set best practices that can be emulated and provide relevant data points for verification, learning and replication.

The inclusion of fish waste management for upcycling to support horticulture and animal feeds can enhance the global impact of a circular economy model for the fish product value chain. Our waste management solutions include upcycling fish waste for bioenergy and fertilizer.

We promote the Circular Economy modalities that facilitate the conversion of waste products into usable by products such as bio slurry for plant fertilization and recycled water for irrigation.

Adoption of biodegradable waste management for fishing communities is a potential new avenue for income and improving life underwater SDG to reduce the dumping of fish waste and other organic waste int the lake and standard of living SDG.

 

Q8. What’s your vision for the sustainable tech industry and your company’s role in it?

We have a vision sustainable tech will create a circular economy driven by IoT, big data and renewable energy. Our company vision is capitalizing on the Water, Energy and Food nexus and the interoperability of the 3 sectors. Each of the sectors need the other as an off-taker or supplier. We see Adili Solar Hubs developing multiple rural communities in Africa by integrating smart data-driven solutions in the water, food and energy sectors resulting in advancement of those communities. Our approach embraces Habit 4 of the 7 habits of highly effective people. “Think win-win”.

Female Empowerment in the Digital Age

Dr. Laura Bechthold is a social scientist and innovation professional from Munich. As a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedrichshafen Institute for Family Entrepreneurship at Zeppelin University, she works on questions regarding responsibility and decision paradigms of family entrepreneurs. As the Director of Science Services at Philoneos GmbH, she supports family fi rms in establishing organizational structures for innovation. Laura holds a BA in Business Administration (Zeppelin University), a Master of Business Research (LMU Munich) and an MSc in Sustainability Science and Policy (Maastricht University). Her PhD research focused on unconscious biases in female entrepreneurship. Her fi eld experimental study on female entrepreneurial role models was awarded twice at international conferences. Laura’s passion lies in building bridges between science and practice to foster an open dialogue and co-create solutions for an inclusive, sustainable and prospering society. Therefore, she contributes to EUTECH by writing about entrepreneurial challenges and opportunities for contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.

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