Building Market Demand for Small Scale Biodigesters in Rural Mexico: Sistema Biobolsa

Eleazar Ortiz, an MBA graduate of New York University is participating in the MBAs Without Borders program in Mexico with Buen Manejo del Campo, a corporation that produces, distributes, and installs Sistema Biobolsa, an award winning high quality biodigester system designed for small and medium farmers. 

Sistema Biobolsa biodigesters are robust and durable, with a 15-20 year life span in the tough conditions of small farms. They are designed with standard sizes as a complete kit that can be easily deployed and installed without high levels of technical training. This reduces the individual design burden and costs of individual projects, and gives small biodigester technology the ability to scale efficiently to the hundreds of millions of small farms that could utilize the technology. Being modular, systems can grow as small farms grow, and investment in the technology can be gradual.

While the technical design is a key piece, an aspect that is just as important for our work is our very complete program of education and capacity building, as inherent aspects of our development methodology and “soft” components that lead to successful adoption of the technology. However, unlike “top-down” biogas programs, we believe that generating a market demand that creates interest from the bottom up is a more effective long-term strategy for diffusion. We have combined a business focus with customer relationship as a core value to ensure a long-term relationship and word of mouth promotion of our product.

The following diagram depicts our strategy for community events and market creation shown in stages of development:

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Our capacity building methodology encompasses market creation, training of local technicians and sales teams, training individual users, providing long-term follow-up and post-installation service, monitoring and data collection, and integration of local stakeholders through local research and community activities. This methodology has been refined through extensive research and testing in the field, and its core ideas permeate the broad scope of interactions we manage with users, promoters, and technicians.

Education is at the core of this methodology, and courses, events, workshops, and training opportunities are present at every stage. The first goal of the educational programs is to identify and highlight a problem set (waste management, energy costs, etc.). Showing the magnitude of the issues that local farmers face is a first step in generating a “demand” for a technology that can address them. This awareness and analysis stage forms the foundation of the program development process.

The next stage is to build core competencies surrounding the technology. This includes users, technicians, and local leaders. Experiential direct learning drives this stage, where pilot systems, training courses, and user discussions facilitate direct experience with the technology and its products. Apart from installations of the systems, capacity must be generated in the long term use and maintenance, the utilization of the biogas and fertilizer resources, and troubleshooting issues in all areas. The most effective strategy is contact with the end users of the technology, where they can witness first-hand the power of the intervention.

This emphasis on capacity building allows us to form networks of independent distributors, skilled users, and generate deep cultural change in rural communities within Mexico.

By Eleazar Ortiz

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