At Sunbird Bioenergy we have the technology to produce bioethanol and power from sugars, starches and other cellulosic materials. In Sub-Saharan Africa, we prioritise the use of sustainable feedstocks that can be sourced through out-grower programs, and provide secure long-term income for small-scale rural farmers.
Cassava is best the known participative feedstock as the economics are the same for small-scale farmers and commercial farmers. The cassava roots are rich in starch and widely grown across the continent. The benefits include:
- High yield per Hectare
- Disease and drought resistant
- Quick growing (9 month cycle)
- Cassava industrialisation program leading to excess production
Sugarcane (and molasses) is another crop that is widely utilised by the bioenergy industry for producing bioethanol. Sugarcane is a tall perennial grass that is native to the warm temperate to tropical regions and suited to both commercial farming and out-grower programs.
Napier grass (often referred to as elephant grass) is another perennial tropical grass and is native to the African grasslands. It has low water and nutrient requirements, and therefore can make use of otherwise uncultivated lands. The high calorific value makes napier grass suitable as a biomass fuel for power stations.
At Sunbird Bioenergy, out-grower programs our core to our business philosophy because they deliver economic empowerment for rural communities. We start out-grower programs in designated Agri-Processing Zones (APZ). These are areas that are specifically for industrial crops and value addition (and are not designated for food production). Wealth creation in rural communities is not limited by land or water resources, but a lack of market for the products produced. The construction and operation of bioenergy project provides a long term market for farmers to sell their crops. This stimulates investment into their land and delivers sustainable rural development.
At the beginning of each season, cassava planting materials are provided to the out-growers.
Growth and harvest
The out-growers are responsible for the growth of the cassava, which typically this means weeding until the canopy is fully established and harvesting. Typically this is month of labour at planting season and a month during the harvesting period. This generally provides a supplementary income for rural farmers and families.
At the end of each season, Sunbird Bioenergy undertakes to purchase the cassava produced by the out-growers. The cassava is collected by the company trucks, and is then weighed at the plant. The out-grower is paid for each tonne of cassava produced.