In the hilly outskirts of Kisumu city, hidden behind leafy trees and rocky terrain, is an innovative enterprise offering a source of renewable energy and a solution to waste management.
Nilger Ventures Limited founded by Getrude Segera converts used cooking oil into biodiesel and crude glycerol. She first came across the idea during her industrial attachment while studying hotel management. She noticed that the hotel she was working for had large consignments of used oil stored in the disposal room. On further inquiry she realised that the hotel did not have a solution for proper disposal of the oil, and so it continuously piled up.
When she left formal employment in Nairobi and relocated to Kisumu, she had been searching for a business venture to take up as she raised her young family. She began researching and experimenting with different formulas to convert the used oil into efficient biodiesel.
She further consulted with a trained chemist who was able to assist in setting up their first manufacturing plant, a fabricated filtering unit. The success of the biodiesel was cemented when the fuel was used in running their delivery TukTuk.
Currently their biggest consumers are TukTuk operators and posho mills which use diesel engines and generators.
Getrude says, ‘The posho mills that use our biodiesel, are happy with the product as it releases less smoke than diesel. It runs for longer and is equally more affordable.” Their prospective customers are hotels and potentially filling stations.
Despite the positive reviews, 2020 has not been an easy year for the entrepreneur. Global prices for crude oil dropped which reduced the price of diesel in the country. This led to their product being pricier than its competitive diesel. Sales were affected as there was minimal movement or economic activity. This forced them to temporarily lay off two employees. They still have one staff member who runs the production units. Further to that government regulations on biodiesel are not clear cut and this has been a challenge. This they say, Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) is working hard to assist in getting the necessary certifications.
Nilger Ventures joined KCIC in March 2020. They are happy with the services they have received so far, specifically with their client lead who they say is responsive to their queries at all times. The mentorship program has offered them tools that they are implementing practically into their business.
They hope to further diversify their output by producing biodiesel from oil seeds which is an untapped market. They are hopeful that the upcoming year will be energetic and they will be able to meet their initial goal of expanding into neighbouring counties.