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Gasifier: Olam Agri Pushes Envelope On Environmental Sustainability

Focused environmental sustainability drive is critical to achieving a prosperity level that works for all. This sustainability drive often leads to efficient business operations and helps improve wellness in communities. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) remarked in a report that pivoting to environmental sustainability can prevent about 13 million deaths yearly, and drastically reduce disease burdens globally. On the business side, McKinsey & Company, a global professional services firm, posited that embedding sustainability on a broader scale in operating models does yield a lot of value, including reducing cost that “can improve operating profits by up to 60 percent.”

Environmental sustainability discourse is gaining traction as the rate of agricultural harvest is almost exceeding the rate of regeneration globally; the rate of depletion of non-renewable energy resources such as fossil fuel necessitates the development of renewable alternatives, and air pollution and waste generation arising from industrial practices seems to get out of control. These have become regulatory topline issues.

To curb these issues, an investment in curiosity-driven research that will prioritise smart agriculture as well as fast-track the adoption of renewable energy must be prioritised. 

This investment will help curb environmental issues such as higher carbon emissions and ineffective management of waste released from the production circles. For instance, Nigeria is also beginning to take the focus seriously.

Abdullahi Mohammed Evuti from the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Abuja, in an academic presentation, subtly advised the Federal Government to focus on formulating policies that would ensure a balance between ‘’economic development and the sustainability of its environmental resources.”

The private sector is rising to support the government’s effort in driving environmental sustainability. This support action is expected to raise public health levels and generate cost efficiency across industries’ operations, cascading into impressive GDP growth in the long run.

Olam Agri, an agribusiness into food, feed and fibre is one of the top businesses that through the Seeds for The Future Foundation (SFTF), its corporate social investment (CSI) vehicle, the business is addressing issues that are impeding national prosperity. The CSI vehicle is focused on supporting farmers and farming communities, enabling wider education & skill development for young people, upskilling women bakers, promoting health & nutrition, and reducing carbon emissions in business operations.

To fast-track, the achievement of reduced carbon emissions across business operations, Olam Agri in Nigeria focuses on delivering innovation capable of reducing carbon footprint and encouraging a cleaner, greener Nigeria within its sphere of influence. 

It recently developed an industry innovation targeted at utilising agri-waste to produce a heat source useful for bakery operations. The innovation which is called ‘the Gasifier’, is a Palm Kernel oven which utilises palm kernel waste i.e., palm kernel shells to produce heat that powers bakery ovens. This innovative biofuel provides a cleaner, greener environment.

The palm oil industry is seeing a surge in production activities due to the growth in demand for palm oil derivative foods, beverages, cosmetics, and personal care products. The derivative production processes create solid waste begging for innovative utilization. Palm kernel waste is being utilized by the business as biofuel to generate the energy that powers bakery production activities.

A report compiled by Energy Procedia, from research work carried out in Indonesia established further that palm kernel biofuel improves public health status by decreasing the level of pollution in the air. It reduces the level of solid waste lying around. It reduces the cost of energy by cutting the rate of dependence on the more expensive and scarce fossil fuels. It also reduces the depletion of natural resource as well as mitigate climate change. 

With those environmental, climatic, public health and cost advantages in view, Olam Agri’s palm kernel-fired oven or ‘the gasifier’ as it is popularly known is an exciting innovation. 

Speaking about the innovative palm kernel-fired oven, Ashish Pande, Country Head, of Olam Agri in Nigeria, said, “We are committed to supporting the country’s sustainability drive to tackle climate change. As an innovation-driven organisation, we are utilizing agri-waste to produce combustible gas that fires bakery ovens and cuts reliance on expensive, environmentally unfriendly diesel fuel. This innovation utilizes the amply available palm kernel shells to produce a form of renewable energy that aids bakery operations.”

“We have completed the trial of the innovative palm kernel shell-fired ovens in five local bakeries. The owners of the bakeries are realizing the significant cost advantage attached to using the ovens and are glad to continue with them in place of the more expensive options.” 

Bolaji Anifowose, Vice President of Olam Agri in Nigeria, explained that the innovative bakery solution is practical and cost-effective. He said, “Rather than importing the technology from elsewhere, the solution is developed locally thereby conserving FOREX. Also on estimates, the palm kernel fired oven reduces cost significantly by over 75% and decarbonizes baking operation”.  

The innovative palm kernel-fired oven represents a profitability stimulus for bakers. The bakers under the aegis of the Premium Bread Makers Association of Nigeria (PBAN) have been lamenting the hike in diesel price from N260 to about N850 lately. They said the hike sent the cost of bread production to an unbearable level, such that many of their members are having to shut down operations. 

Sumervant Singh – Vice President – Technical at Olam Agri added that “the shift from fossil fuels to innovative and sustainable energy sources for baking ovens is not just a matter of economic and environmental sense, but also a step towards securing a healthier future for our planet and generations to come,”.

Considering the cost advantage attached to using palm kernel-fired ovens instead of a diesel-powered generator, in a market plagued by an epileptic power supply, the bakers can look forward to getting back to their profitability level. Nigeria can also look forward to a greener future driven by innovation, thanks to Olam Agri in Nigeria.

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