A Pune-based digital start-up, BiofuelCircle, has been launched for green fuels with the platform creating an end-to-end solution to meet the demand for biomass for the industry.
“The company aims to address the challenges around the bioenergy supply chain and make a positive impact on the environment and the rural community by providing economic value, clean energy and increased job opportunities,” Suhas Baxi, CEO and Co-founder, BiofuelCircle, told businessline.
BiofuelCircle took one year to build its platform and then launched a pilot during January-June 2021 before launching its services. “We had to come up with a minimum functionality version of our platform with an energy firm agreeing to work as an alpha customer to meet its biomass demand,” Baxi said.
“Once we got a handle on what to expect, we launched our commercial operations in July 2021,” he said, adding that since then it has added 500 business subscribers to its service.
The firm operates in three ways. In the first leg, it provides an app in which farmers can come forward to sell the biomass produced on their farms to firms that manufacture briquettes and pellets. In the second leg, these briquettes and pellets are sold to industries. For both these services, transport can be provided as a separate service if the buyer wants, Baxi said.
10,000 farmers join app
“The third is providing finance as a service. We try and get them available finances to get the supply of biomass,” said Ashwin Save, co-founder, BiofuelCircle.
About 10,000 farmers have joined the app to provide biomass from their farms. “All the farmers are from Maharashtra since the app was launched in the local language,” Save said.
29 types of farm residues are offered by the farmers and they include corn cobs, cotton and soyabean stack, paddy straw and groundnut husks. “At least 235 million tonnes of biomass of fuel is available in India,” said Save.
“If all this biomass is used, we can save 17 per cent of our fossil fuel imports. Currently, this biomass is either thrown away or burnt or allowed to rot,” said Baxi.
“Of late, new projects are coming up which need biomass. What is important is their quality and timely supply,” he said.
BiofuelCircle has several labs at the back end to take samples of the biomass before despatch to give results of their quality. Buyers can digitally track the suppliers to ensure they get their requirements on time. “This creates a digital record and our algo calculation provides the rating based on these records. This also helps financial firms to provide loans to micro, small and medium enterprises since not many banks or non-banking finance corporations come forward to offer them loans,” Save said.
Biomass is derived twice a year after harvest and has to be carried over for eight months in a year. As a result, buyers, who need money for the purchase, look to avail of loans for which BiofuelCircle helps now. “Our financial service was launched only recently,” Baxi said.
To a question on farmers’ response to selling the biomass produced on their farms, Baxi said it is early days but given an opportunity to monetise growers will opt for it.
“For example, we had bought paddy straw waste from a village near Pune and had not made up our mind to procure it again. But we got a phone call from the village in November asking us to procure the straw again,” he said, adding that there were ecological benefits too in using biomass to produce fuel.