Finance mobilised (USD)
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GHG mitigation impact (tonnes of CO2e/year)
Korean-owned company Farmergy had been on the lookout for opportunities to develop Uzbekistan’s sizable sustainable energy potential. Initially looking into photovoltaic in the country, they have since switched focus to agriculture, representing a whopping 30% of Uzbekistan’s GDP. This massive – and essential – sector produces large amounts of waste never put to proper use. “We had the idea then of turning waste to energy,” says Gap-Cheol Kim, general director at Farmergy and one of the key minds behind the project.
Licorice is the primary crop at the start of the process, a legume family plant with various uses from cosmetics to food, with Uzbekistan producing many thousands of tonnes annually. Besides residual waste along the way before export to China and other countries, licorice processing also generates vast quantities of foul odours. It’s all addressed by channelling licorice waste into fuel pellet production. “We want to resolve this for the community”, says Kim. “We can provide new jobs too, and there are also people who don’t have access to energy, for whom we can provide either low price or even free energy”. It would seem the benefits of closing sustainability gaps in Uzbek agriculture are unusually beneficial at the local and national level.
The roots of Farmergy go back to initial cooperations with the Uzbek government in 2014. “Initially my counterpart was the Ministry of Economy!” grins Kim. “They’ve since established a new [climate-focused] ministry.” After Korean investment saw little real progress, initiating Farmergy was envisaged to launch a smaller project, a foreign enterprise that could see results more quickly. “It’s simple, it’s small in size, and it’s very practical.”
“One of the personnel from the Ministry for Economy in Uzbekistan now works for PFAN as a coordinator,” says Kim, describing how Farmergy first met the network. “PFAN helped me to perfect the business plan and to build some tools for financial analysis.” Kim then went on the hunt for funding, and a key investor was soon secured thanks to PFAN’s help.
Pellet demand varies a lot from season to season, providing household heating in winter, and swivelling more to industrial heating in summer and autumn. “Recently, there is also some demand for exports too, even,” says Kim. “In some European countries pellets sell for triple the price Farmergy are offering – so their market reach is already growing. Located in Karakalpakstan in the northwestern part of the country, the Farmergy facility has a capacity to produce 50 tonnes of pellets per day. “But, as I’ve told you, the country produces far more waste than that every day,” reminds Kim. Other sources besides licorice root could be utilised to produce pellets in future, such as sunflowers. Kim is clear though – “first however, I would like to expand our capacities.”