I am always refreshed when I come across Zimbabwean startups doing creative and innovative stuff. I count myself privileged to be able to profile such inspiring entrepreneurial stories. Those of you who religiously follow my articles will know I am big on sustainability. That is why anyone who champions sustainability ventures easily appeals to me. Despite the economic hurdles in Zimbabwe, enterprising Zimbabweans are coming up with exceptional startups. Today I am bringing to your attention Fuel Flip Technologies. This is a Zimbabwean startup that is turning sawdust into briquette charcoal and more. I discussed with one of its founders, Tichaona Matte; here is what we discussed:
Kindly Tell Me About Your Startup
The name of our company is Fuel Flip Technologies. We are a renewable energy company that focuses on the development of biomass utilisation systems, especially those to do with the conversion of waste to energy. Our mission is to champion the local production of our local energy demands from locally available resources, biomass being one of the vast resources we have as a nation.
When And How Did You Start?
The ideation of this company was in 2016, soon after I left Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT). After a lot of idea crunching, failing and having to put other projects on hold, we eventually formalised in 2019. Fuel Flip was founded by Tendai Chipatiso and Tichaona Matte.
Kindly Detail Products And Services You Offer
We double as a Think Tank and renewable energy products or service provider.
Briquette Charcoal (Made From Sawdust)
On the products side of things, we are producing and selling charcoal briquettes from sawdust in Mutare. Our charcoal is sold under the brand name Xero Charcoal and can be accessed at our factory for bulk orders, No 2B Riverside Drive Mutare. Alternatively, it can be accessed through our distributors in Mutare, Harare and Bulawayo for now but we are looking forward to scaling throughout Zimbabwe.
Biogas Remote Power Generation and Irrigation System
Another product we are piloting is the Biogas Remote Power Generation and Irrigation System. It is not yet available on the market but it is being tested in the field already.
On the service side of things, we offer consultancy services in biomass utilisation project development and deployment. This includes but is not limited to, biogas, biomass gasification, bio-ethanol and bio-diesel projects development.
Detail The Concept And Process Behind Making Briquette Charcoal From Saw Dust
The process of converting sawdust to charcoal briquettes is not a very new or novel thing in the chemical and processing engineering world. Henry Ford, the American automobile maker is credited with commercialising and popularising the concept. However, the process developed by Henry Ford is very capital intensive and very mechanical.
We sought to develop a very efficient system, that did not have high energy input demands and was easily deployable. That is where the innovation is and also on the ability to identify the potential of a local waste nuisance as a source of alternative energy. In layman’s terms, the process of converting sawdust to charcoal is just burning the sawdust with very little oxygen to produce char dust and that char dust is pressed into little blocks or balls of charcoal.
An Overview Of The Team Behind Fuel Flip Technologies
Currently, we are just a two-man managerial team, Tendai Chipatiso and I (Tichaona Matte). We have 8 employees currently. Tendai Chipatiso’s background is in Business Management and Entrepreneurship; my background is in Biotechnology and Chemical Engineering.
Currently, What Challenges Are You Facing?
The major challenge is that of funding. The current economic situation in Zimbabwe is making it difficult for us to access funding. Established financial institutions require collateral and the interest rates on loans are too high. There is also limited to no governmental support. We rely mostly on bootstrapping to cater for our financial needs.
Are You Open For Business Or Investment Partnerships?
We are very much to business and investment partnerships. We are already doing that since we have various distributors. We seek to have such long-lasting partnerships. We are open to investment partnerships just as long as they align with our vision and mission; which is to make sustainable energy available and affordable for everyone in Zimbabwe and sub-Saharan Africa.
A Word Of Gratitude And Inspiration From Fuel Flip Technologies
When I asked about whether or not he had anything he would like everyone to know, some striking remarks emerged.
He first off appreciated the support he has gotten from various people, from family, friends, relatives, and church members to organizations and institutions, among others. He highlighted that he does not consider himself self-made but a product of many people’s material and immaterial support. Some of the special mentions in that regard are the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Youth Connekt Zimbabwe. Youth Connekt Zimbabwe is a partnership between the United Nations Development Programme and the local Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation. Some more partners involved are Steward Bank, Higher Life Foundation, Impact Hub, Elevate Youth, UN Volunteers, and Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, amongst others. Monetary and technical support has been borne from these organizations and their initiatives.
Another one is a grant they got through the Simuka-Phakama initiative. That grant was instrumental in the early setting up of Fuel Flip Technologies.
He also emphasised the importance of pursuing a dream if you have one. He encouraged every aspiring Zimbabwean entrepreneur out there to take a leap of faith. The existence of Fuel Flip Technologies is proof that you can start a startup in Zimbabwe and thrive.
The best way for you to help push the brand forward is by taking up their products e.g. the Xero Charcoal. This is a win-win situation in that you benefit and their brand grows. They have high confidence in their products; clients are always giving positive feedback. Thus the best way you can contribute to their growth is by taking up their products and services. Then you can also recommend it to others. Additionally, you can follow and engage on their social media platforms. For more details, you can check out Fuel Flip Technologies’ website here. You can also check out their Facebook page or LinkedIn page.