Researchers estimate that 25,000 tons of croton nuts fall from the croton plant each year, unused and left to waste away. EcoFuels Kenya has found a way to harvest these nuts for multiple purposes, breathing life back into the Kenyan economy, and the nut itself.
Myles Lutheran, DMSB’10, managing director of EcoFuels Kenya, sought a way to use the croton to Kenya’s advantage, ultimately producing biofuel that can power large diesel engines, while also creating organic fertilizer, chicken feed, and briquettes for cooking, in addition to slowing rampant deforestation.
In the beginning stages of development, EcoFuels was purely focused on making profits from organic fertilizer products, a plan that later failed due to a lack of farmers purchasing it in a timely manner.
With a lack of sales, slow investment funding and a small amount of buyers, EcoFuels had to make a change.
“Because we were driven by market forces instead of investor passion, we learned very quickly that this was not the right market. In Silicon Valley, they call it ‘failing fast.’ The idea is not to actually fail but to figure out quickly what doesn’t work and adjust,” said Lutheran.
The company began a new focus on biofuel creation, developing poultry feed and cooking briquettes, but kept making the fertilizer as well. In spite of this change, EcoFuels was struggling when Lutheran joined the team in 2013.
Under Lutheran’s business development direction, the company remained functioning from 2013 into 2014, but still needed more financial resources. In the spring of 2015, Lutheran returned to the United States on a coast-to-coast fundraiser, raising $700,000 from four investors, and winning an $800,000 grant from the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund.
The money raised will be used to build a second factory in Kenya, develop a commercial orchard and hire more farmers to collect nuts. The money may also be used to develop new products.
“I do this because I care. The world has a lot of problems that need to be solved, and business is the best way to bring about change. The most important thing this field can produce is a successful business,” said Lutheran.