Award winning Kubeko turns waste into income

The inventor of low-cost biowaste processing equipment that ferments post-harvest by-products into compost and cooking gas has been awarded the RAEng’s 2021 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

Noël N’guessan with liquid compost made by Kubeko

Developed and patented by Ivorian chemical engineer Noël N’guessan and his team, the Kubeko system can assist smallholder farmers and their cooperatives to generate more income from the by-products of their harvests, without any additional labour.

The biodigester transforms green waste, liquid and solid, into cooking gas and liquid compost. Approximately five kilograms of daily solid waste provides two hours’ worth of cooking gas, and 50 litres of liquid compost.

The composter is fed and aerated daily for 15 days, and produces 150kg of compost from 400kg of biowaste each month. The equipment’s aeration can be configured to run on an energy grid or on solar power.

“Biowaste represents two-to-five times the quantity of crops or produce sold, amounting to 30 million tonnes of waste disposed of annually in Côte d’Ivoire,” N’guessan said in a statement. “By repurposing this waste, Kubeko can help Ivorians generate extra income, dramatically improving the lives of thousands of farmers and their families.”

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Since being shortlisted for the Africa Prize, the Kubeko team has reduced production costs from $800 to $700. The team has so far installed two biodigesters running on cassava farms, and 50 composters are currently installed on cocoa, palm oil and mango farms. Kubeko has also been commissioned by Côte d'Ivoire’s Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development to train stakeholders on the use of Kubeko.

“We were very impressed with the Kubeko solution which has huge potential to impact many lives of farmers in West Africa,” said Africa Prize Judge Ibilola Amao. “We believe Kubeko will contribute greatly to sustainable energy and farming in the region.

At the virtual awards ceremony held on July 8, 2021, four finalists delivered presentations, before Africa Prize judges and a live audience voted for the most promising engineering innovation.

N'guessan was awarded £25,000 for Kubeko whilst £10,000 went to the three runners up. In addition to the main prizes, Yusuf Bilesanmi was selected as the inaugural winner of the Africa Prize’s One-to-Watch Award of £5,000. This Award recognises the potential of Bilesanmi’s innovation, ShiVent, a low-cost, non-electric and non-invasive ventilator for patients with respiratory difficulties.

The runners up:

BlueAvo, Indira Tsengiwe from South Africa – a digital platform on which African creatives can collaborate and sell services as an agency-alternative that is rich in diversity, and places African creatives at the world’s fingertips.

Make3D Medical, Juka Fatou Darboe from The Gambia - uses 3D printing to create customised orthopaedic equipment for medical institutions and their patients.

Social Lender, Faith Adesemowo from Nigeria – a financial services solution that uses social reputation scoring to provide credit scores to those who would otherwise not qualify for formal financial services.

Source: RAEng