2019 marked the start of the construction of the largest, insect-based organics recycling factories in East and Central Africa. In this facility located in Machakos County – neighbouring Nairobi-, Sanergy is now able to process 72,000 tonnes of organic waste annually.
Pioneering the circular sanitation economy
Since its creation in 2010, Sanergy has operated in Kenya using a sanitation service model for very low-income areas which covers the full sanitation value-chain: safe sanitation systems, waste services and upcycling in to reuse products (organic fertilizers, biofuels and animal feed).
“Around the world, cities generate around one billion tonnes of sanitation organic waste every year. And we have realised that the majority of that waste does not get treated; it is just dumped in the environment. At Sanergy, we exist to solve that problem. We employ a circular economy approach to collect both sanitation and organic waste from cities, and we turn it into useful end products,” explains Michael Lwoyelo, Managing Director of Sanergy.
Since the start of the waste conversion operations in 2015, Sanergy has processed an average of 60,000 tonnes of organic waste per year. Waste is transformed into Sanergy’s main market products: organic fertilizer (Evergrow) and insect-based protein derived from Black Soldier Flies (KuZaPro). The organic fertiliser is directly distributed to smallholder, medium, and large-scale farmers in more than 35 counties in Kenya, while the insect protein is sold in bulk quantities to fishmeal and chicken feed processors.
Two business models; one mission
In 2022, Sanergy split its operations into two entities – Fresh Life and Regen Organics – under the umbrella of Sanergy Collaborative, with operations currently covering the municipalities of Nairobi, Kisumu and Eldoret. Each company employs around 450 people and together they contribute to creating more than 2,000 indirect jobs across the sanitation and agriculture value-chains.
The non-profit organisation Fresh Life covers the sanitation value chain activities from toilet production up to transport of faecal sludge, serving up to 170,000 urban citizens. Fresh Life toilets are designed to be used by several families, and are managed by local entrepreneurs. The toilets are regularly emptied by a local crew as part of Fresh-Life. The sludge is safely contained and transported to a waste processing site owned and operated by Sanergy.
The Regen Organics company covers recycle and reuse, which is the Waste-2-Value component. The larvae of the Black Soldier Fly are grown on the collected organic waste to be sold as insect-based protein, and the resulting residue from the feeding process, known as frass, is composted with other organic waste to create organic fertiliser. Horticulture farmers using Evergrow have had more than 30% increase in their yields, the same percentage for chicken and fish farms using KuZaPro.
Fresh Life can only be profitable if it is partly covered by government support (tax money). Regen Organics is on the path towards profitability, and has successfully leveraged private investments to scale.
Long-term support to a smart, circular sanitation solution
In 2016, Sanergy received funding from Aqua for All for the first time to test the marketing approach and sales channels of its Evergrow organic fertiliser. But our relationship with the enterprise dates from 2013 when Sanergy won the first Sarphati Sanitation Awards. The awards were an initiative of Aqua for All in partnership with the Municipality of Amsterdam (The Netherlands), World Waternet, and the Netherlands Water Partnership to promote innovation, capacity and investment in sanitation.
Since 2020, Aqua for All has supported Sanergy to develop an additional component of its Waste-2-Value production. We provided a grant to pilot the extraction of fat/oil from the dried Black Soldier Fly larvae (BSFL). The two resulting products (fat/oil and protein rich animal meal) are expected to provide 30% higher revenues than the original KuZaPro, against limited additional costs.
The way forward
From 2023 onwards, Sanergy/Regen Organics plans to apply this oil/fat extraction method for the entire process line at a processing capacity of about 10 tonnes/day of BSFL.
Sanergy has created a successful business model that is positively impacting low-income communities and the environment. It is now operational in Nairobi, Kisumu and Eldoret, and is ready to expand to many more cities in Kenya and beyond.
“It is a very beautiful story about solving problems
on the sanitation waste management side,
and then using circularity to solve problems in agriculture.”
A sustainable, circular economy from faecal sludge has become a reality thanks to the pioneering work of Sanergy Collaborative. And we – Aqua for All – are proud that we could make a contribution to this success.
“It is a very beautiful story about solving problems on the sanitation waste management side, and then using circularity to solve problems in agriculture,” Mr Lwoyelo concludes.
Learn more about Sanergy:
- Watch Sanergy’s video: Bold and safe waste management solutions for fast growing cities
- Read our previous article on Sanergy: Financing sustainable sanitation solutions in Kenya