ATEC Biodigesters: A Case Study in Renewable Energy for Rural Farmers

ATEC provides high-quality and pre-fabricated biodigesters to rural farming families. Biodigesters collect and treat manure, human, kitchen and green waste which are converted to biogas that powers the twin cookstove attached. In addition, organic fertilisers are also produced for farming use. ATEC’s recent initiative to launch the world’s first PAYGO model for biodigesters will increase access to renewable energy technology for rural farming families by improving the affordability of a biodigester system.

To learn more about ATEC Biodigesters, continue reading below or sign up for Impact Partners to support this high impact enterprise.

The Background to Success

SINGAPORE AND AUSTRALIA, 15 August 2019 – ATEC* Biodigesters International (ATEC*) – a triple bottom line impact enterprise with pioneering biodigester technology — has raised debt financing from US-based impact investor Beneficial Returns to launch the world’s first PAYGO (pay-as-you-go) model for biodigesters. Singapore-based Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) facilitated the deal through its Impact Partners platform—Asia’s largest crowdfunding platform for impact investing.

Impact at Scale

Launching first in Cambodia, ATEC’s PAYGO model will increase access to renewable energy technology for rural farming families by improving the affordability of a biodigester system. IIX’s impact assessment estimates that ATEC’s PAYGO model will enable 7,500 households to access clean energy, reduce exposure to indoor air pollution, free up over three hours per day per household—primarily for women—from basic cooking and fuel needs, and avoid thousands of 33,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.

Why PAYGO is Critical

Ben Jeffreys, CEO of ATEC*, said: “The PAYGO integration will dramatically improve the affordability of ATEC’s biodigester system and allow us to impact even more families in rural developing communities with a more sustainable cooking option. We are pleased to offer a payment schedule that is flexible enough to allow as many people as possible to benefit from the cost-savings as well as a healthier lifestyle.”

The launch of the first-ever PAYGO system for biodigesters will be a game changer in the clean energy sector, with ATEC* aiming to replicate the successful experience of the solar industry for the first time in biodigesters. Under the PAYGO scheme, farming households who are unable to pay for the cost of a biodigester upfront can opt for monthly installment payments. The additional savings generated by foregoing the purchase of gas and chemical fertilizer would offset the monthly payments. Trials to date under the PAYGO scheme have seen a doubling in lead conversion rates, increasing ATEC’s scalability by tapping into existing PAYGO distributors and allowing more small-scale farmers to afford the biodigesters.

Strong Funding

The funding for ATEC* was secured with support from IIX, which was engaged by Clean Cooking Alliance’s Spark+ program. IIX worked with ATEC* through its award-winning accelerator ACTSTM, as well as its Impact PartnersTM platform—which raises a combination of debt and equity for growth stage high-impact enterprises, and connects over 1,200 accredited investors around the world (representing over US$12 billion in assets) to thoroughly-vetted, high-potential opportunities that generate social and environmental impact alongside financial returns.

Robert Kraybill, Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director of Portfolio Management at IIX, said: “Access to affordable and clean energy is critical for tackling poverty in Asia. It also plays a role in women’s empowerment, as women are often the primary producers of food and providers of water, heating, and cooking fuel for their households. ATEC* is growing rapidly through innovation and a commitment to addressing a range of social and environmental challenges while generating financial return. We couldn’t be happier to continue supporting them as they graduate from our ACTS accelerator to our Impact Partners crowdfunding platform. We are also excited to continue our partnership with the Clean Cooking Alliance to drive impact across emerging markets.”

ATEC received seed funding from Google and SNV in 2016 and has since sold over 1,000 biodigester units in Cambodia. Investors in their Series A round included  Small Giants (Australia), Fondation Ensemble (France), ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies (France), and one other private Australian investor.

Globally, there are an estimated 205 million farms that can benefit from biodigesters, with the majority of these being in Asia. South and Southeast Asia have the highest potential, with Cambodia and Bangladesh representing potential markets of 1.3 million and 4.5 million farming households, respectively. However, the market for biodigesters remains largely untapped and one of the biggest hurdles is small-scale farmers’ inability to afford the upfront purchase price.

Looking for more insight into investors and entrepreneurs with a focus on energy innovation? Don’t miss Cleantech Forum Asia in Singapore on 8-9 October.