BIOFerm Energy Systems takes bad things and converts them into very good carbon-neutral things, and that’s paying off for the company, its customers, and the planet
Nadeem Afghan’s description of the company he leads is deceptively simple: “We take a lot of very bad things and turn them into really, really good things.” That company, BIOFerm Energy Systems, uses advanced fermentation technologies to convert organic waste into clean, sustainable energy.
However, that’s just half of the CEO’s bad/good conversion calculus. The other is BIOFerm’s approach to the business of sustainability, developing a unique cradle-to-grave model designed to create strong, collaborative partnerships that literally last a lifetime.
Experts in anaerobic digestion, gas upgrading, and solar energy, BIOFerm’s industry-leading technologies create biogas from all types of organic waste — think animal waste, farm and agricultural waste, sewage, and food waste — and transform it into biogas for transportation fuel, electric energy, and thermal energy. Their technologies process the widest possible range of organic matter.
“We take anything that people throw away or that's been created inside wastewater treatment plants and landfills and take that material to create fuel and energy for beneficial use,” Afghan said. “We are also creating compost.” Compost made from the byproducts of the treatment processes can be reapplied in soil and used to fertilize crops. “When that is consumed and it creates more waste, we then complete the cycle by extracting energy again.”
BIOFerm’s systems clean the gasses produced by agriculture, landfills, and natural gas and convert them into fuels such as renewable natural gas and hydrogen. “Our technology handles the driest organic materials to the wettest organic material, like sludges,” he said. “We also have technology that takes carbon dioxide and converts it into methane.” The extensive range of BIOFerm’s systems enables seamless integration into existing facilities.
Established in Madison, Wis., in 2007, BIOFerm introduced dry fermentation biogas technology to the U.S. renewables industry. BIOFerm’s original German parent, the Viessmann Group, was at the center of the well-established, booming European biogas industry and Afghan ended up purchasing BIOFerm from Viessman in 2017. Biogas in itself is nothing new, but the relatively recent existence of federal tax credits and other financial incentives for renewable energy technologies is increasing its stateside popularity.
The domestic biogas sector has grown 400% since 2014 and is crammed with new entrants vying to serve the major oil companies with alternatives to fossil fuels. As Afghan put it, “There’s a gold rush environment within the industry.” As with any boom cycle, there’s much overpromising and under-delivering from startups eager to strike it rich — and that’s where BIOFerm’s turnkey approach to organic waste treatment systems is changing the biogas game.
When companies seek out BIOFerm for any one of their custom systems, the company views the sales and development process as an educational exercise for both parties. Their emphasis is on mutual growth.
“We want to make sure our customers are going to be profitable,” Afghan said. “We invest a lot of time explaining what they're getting into, what results they can expect, and business modeling. When all of that is done, we take them under our umbrella and make sure everything is successful. Our umbrella provides them with turnkey protection.”
In addition to offering what Afghan calls “the best performance and warranties in the business,” BIOFerm guarantees the highest possible equipment uptime. At present, they are working to further refine their 96% uptime rate to 98%. “Why do we innovate in uptime? Because that's what is going to produce the most money for our customers,” he said.
BIOFerm abjures the “shiny object syndrome.” “I can give them nicer-looking gadgets and make it look beautiful, but if the uptime is subpar on a system that looks wonderful to the eye, we’re not servicing our customers.”
In addition to bringing first-of-its-kind tech to the U.S. market, BIOFerm fundamentally changed how systems used for landfill gas treatment are deployed. They introduced the very first sustainably deployed model with the highest uptime and efficiency rates in the industry for 50% less cost than the competition.
“We're not selling on price,” he said. “It's just the efficiency of the system. Many things we’ve done have made the industry follow in our direction. More and more companies are looking for turnkey systems, more efficiency, and improved uptime.”
One such customer, Wisconsin’s Dane County Landfill, had been generating electricity with the gas collected from the breakdown of garbage and organic material. When they sought to generate renewable natural gas transportation fuel from their waste, BIOFerm installed their BIOVIS 2-Stage pressure swing adsorption gas upgrading plant at the landfill. The facility enables the county to convert its landfill gas into vehicle fuel, eliminating thousands of tons of carbon emissions.
As part of their full life cycle approach with their products and systems, BIOFerm can assist customers with financing and provide preferred sources for equity investments in their projects. “If a customer has a good project but they’re struggling to find the right financing, we can connect them with the right investors,” Afghan said.
They also invest in their workforce, harnessing a culture of collaboration and work/life balance to create a family feel despite being the high-powered offspring of a world-class global technology developer. “We've always believed that the biggest model of sustainability is the family,” he said.
“Everything a mother or father does is done for their children, and those children do it for their children. Everyone here will be leaving something better for the next generation,” Afghan said. “We work together as a family.” This remarkable family of engineers, researchers, and builders works for the ultimate really, really good thing: the life of our planet.
BIOFerm Energy Systems provides turnkey gas upgrading and anaerobic digestion facilities in North America, with our technology implemented at more than 450 digester installations and 900 PSA installations.
Based in Madison, Wis., our company offers design, engineering, construction, operation and management of turnkey biogas projects.
Our product offerings include a complete line of biogas technologies: dry fermentation, wet fermentation, hybrid, and small-scale AD systems, as well as pressure swing adsorption (PSA) and membrane biogas upgrading facilities.
BIOFerm is positioned to seamlessly integrate waste management solutions into each operations’ individual waste stream due to our diverse technologies.
BIOFerm Energy Systems
3 Point Place, Suite 100
Madison, WI 53719
Email [email protected]