Kazy-Bek Agro Farm adopts biogas system to make operations more sustainable
As the Kyrgyz Republic tackles the surging coronavirus pandemic, with new supply-chain risks to food security, local agribusinesses and farming entrepreneurs are playing a vital role. One of these entrepreneurs is 51-year-old Kasymbek Kaziev, who was keen to adopt green technology for his fruit-growing business.
With support from the EBRD and the European Union (EU), a consultant provided advice that gave Kasymbek the eco-friendly solution he was looking for.
Kasymbek is an accomplished local businessman. He has held many different jobs, from exporting metal scraps to importing jeans to manufacturing 200,000 plastic fruit and vegetable containers made from material recovered from municipal landfill.
That last business helped local fruit exporters switch from wood crates to plastic containers, saving 1,000 cubic metres of wood annually and meeting the new requirements in Russia, the main market for local produce. This experience led Kasymbek to his next venture – an intensive fruit farming orchard.
After much research, he planted a 19-hectare fruit orchard in Sarykamysh, his home village in the Kyrgyz region of Yssyk-Kol. The new business, Kazy-Bek Agro Farm, grows dwarf and semi-dwarf tree varieties of apricots, apples, plums, raspberries and walnuts, and sells to local markets, including local large retail chains.
Early on, Kasymbek decided to grow his fruit in the most natural way possible. He installed a drip irrigation system and applied labour-intensive pest and disease control techniques that limit the use of chemicals, giving seasonal employment to 20 other villagers. But despite these efforts, the soil quality meant that, until recently, the farm had to spend US$ 5,000 each year on fertilisers.
So, with the help of his brother, a long-time livestock farmer with 800 sheep and 50 cattle and horses, Kasymbek started looking into a biogas facility to produce his own organic fertiliser. They found out about dozens of such green technology projects supported by the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme.
In early May 2020, amid the pandemic and guided by a technical consultant provided with the support of the EU, the farm installed a 25 cubic metre biogas unit, setting up a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy cycle for the two farm operations and Kasymbek’s household. All the organic waste – foodstuff leftovers, manure and discarded orchard material – goes into the unit. The farm can now generate between 9,000 and 14,000 cubic metres of biogas a year, as well as provide 365 cubic meters of high-quality organic fertiliser each year.
Kasymbek points out the many benefits of the biogas operation: “I apply an environmentally friendly fertiliser to grow natural fruits for my customers. The unit makes enough biogas for our family’s heating and cooking needs. We got rid of the bad smell from the waste and improved sanitary conditions at home, at the livestock farm and the orchard.”
There is a financial gain as well. Kasymbek will save US$ 7,500 per year on fertiliser and gas, while growing anywhere between 20 and 30 per cent more fruit and selling all of the organically grown produce at a premium.
Kasymbek is also thinking about expanding production and getting a special organic production certificate. As the Kyrgyz Republic fights coronavirus, he sees an added need to strengthen local food supply chains and create jobs. In recent months, together with other local businesses, he has helped supply and distribute charitable food donations to village residents.
There is even greater value, Kasymbek believes, in sharing his experience and skills. “I spent a lot of time and money on learning all about biogas myself. So I decided to share this knowledge with my fellow villagers and other farmers for free,” explains Kasymbek. He mentors four young fellow villagers who started their own fruit orchards and never turns down requests to see his new biogas unit in action.
Since 2006, the EBRD and donors, including the European Union and the Small Business Impact Fund (Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taipei China and the United States) have supported over 40 Kyrgyz small and medium-sized enterprises with business advice in environmental management and energy/resource efficiency.