Sistema Biobolsa has made it their mission to reimagine waste as a resource. They sell small scale biodigesters to small and medium farmers. By converting manure into biogas and biofertilizer, these biodigesters allow farmers to cut costs while farming in a more sustainable manner.
The excess production of biofertilizer from biodigesters presents an opportunity for Sistema Biobolsa to reach more smallholder farmers and broaden its socio-environmental impact. If measures are taken to improve the nutrient content of the biofertilizer, a commercialization model could offer even more farmers a low-cost, natural fertilizer and the opportunity for more sustainable livelihoods.
We interviewed smallholder Mexican farmers, 56 of whom were Sistema Biobolsa clients and 29 potential buyers of the biofertilizer produced by Sistema Biobolsa biodigesters. We identified local agro-chemical shops as a potential partner for the distribution of this biofertilizer and conducted interviews at nine of these shops.
Each interview consisted of 10-20 questions regarding the farmer’s crop production, farming techniques, chemical fertilizer use, and animal ownership. The main goal of the surveys was to gauge the interest of biodigester owners in selling their excess biofertilizer and of other smallholder farmers in buying it.
We sought to understand the requirements, from the perspective of buyers, sellers, and distributors, for an attractive fertilizer product. Our research led to the opportunities and challenges of selling this fertilizer as well as potential avenues for its sale and distribution.
Every farmer we talked to, when asked about the idea of a new organic fertilizer, unequivocally responded that they would need to see it in use and observe the results before they would consider buying it.
A nitrogen concentration below 1% makes the market viability of the biofertilizer very suspect. It’s low concentration means that farmers need an exorbitant amount to fertilize their crops, presenting distribution challenges. The possibility of improving this nitrogen concentration must be explored, as well as the possibility of offering the biofertilizer at or below cost.
Most farmers are not properly educated about optimal biofertilizer application, and since most of them treat it as a waste product, they underutilize their biodigesters, meaning that there is potential for a massive surplus. Sistema Biobolsa has an opportunity to improve farmer education as well as commercialize excess biofertilizer to other smallholder farmers.
Public Health Science
Mike Harwood, Food & Agribusiness Institute
Commercialization of Biol Report
This report encapsulates our research process, key opportunities, and challenges identified in the field. We recommend ways for Sistema Biobolsa to successfully pilot a biofertilizer sales model, focusing on best practices for biofertilizer storage, treatment, quality control, distribution, and application.
Distribution Decision Tool
This tool will guide day-to-day decision-making by technicians and serve as a resource for long-term planning by the Sistema Biobolsa team. It will allow the executive team to adjust the unit economics of the business plan, and each day technicians can check that the key assumptions are accurate, enter the starting locations, and see maps of all client locations that fall within the radius that the model deems financially feasible.