In 2008, Allan Marega was looking for an alternative source of fuel after realising that the use firewood contributed to depletion of forests.
He was introduced to briquettes and realised that most plants could be used to make the fuel. He started with rice husks from Mwea and maize cobs but realised that their heat value was low.
He also experimented with pine plant leafs and learnt that the pineapple plant has a high heat value. He approached Del Monte who grow thousands of acres of pineapples in Thika.
Since this was an expensive investment for his company, Global Supply Solutions Ltd, Mariga sourced for funds from the ICDC, African Enterprise Challenge Fund, Energy and Environment Partnership and Kenya Climate Innovation Centre, who provided Sh230 million in loans and grants.
He then signed a ten-year lease with Del Monte for a three hectare piece of land on the Thika-Garrisa Road and, working with a Danish briquette making machine company, started production in October 2014.
Del Monte previously had problems disposing the plant after harvesting pineapples and sometimes were forced to burn the trunks.
Mariga is currently producing 70 metric tons of briquettes daily and expects to double production by June this year.
“Our main customers are industries in Thika who run boilers, institutions such as schools and colleges and we have also approached a number of tea factories who we expect to be our main customers,” says Mariga who is a pilot.
He is also working with youths in Murang’a, Kirinyaga and Narok so that they can distribute the briquettes and earn money.
His firm's mechanical engineer John Irungu says briquettes are 100 per cent natural with a low level of carbon monoxide and an ash content below 10 per cent, making them cleaner and safer to use.
The company employs 12 people who include two engineers, fork lift operators, technicians, tractor drivers and casual laborers on two shifts of eight hours daily.