BioFuelCircle Revolutionises Bioenergy with Digital Innovations

In a SMEStreet Exclusive interview, Suhas Baxi, Co-Founder and CEO, BioFuelCircle explains some key contemporary trends that are influencing the alternate fuel energy sector. Sectors | Interviews

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Suhas Baxi, Co-Founder and CEO BioFuelCircle

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Suhas Baxi, Co-Founder and CEO of BioFuelCircle, discusses how digitization is transforming India's biofuel industry. BioFuelCircle's digital platform connects farmers, rural enterprises, and industries, fostering a sustainable farm-to-fuel economy and advancing the bioenergy sector.

In a SMEStreet Exclusive interview, Suhas Baxi, Co-Founder and CEO, BioFuelCircle explains some key contemporary trends that are influencing the alternate fuel energy sector. 

  1. How has your perspective on advancements in the bioenergy industry evolved in recent years?

Digitization is the key which is transforming the biofuel industry as any other industry witnessing massive growth. India is poised for a digital technological revolution, as smartphones become increasingly prevalent and digital payment systems continue to advance. No doubt that there has been strong governmental boost in terms of policies, and guidelines in the field of bioenergy. Incentives at rural level, however, have so far been inadequate in fully harnessing the immense potential of bioenergy. To achieve maximum impact in the biofuels sector, it is important to connect and mobilize farmers, MSMEs and large enterprises simultaneously. Digital Innovations provides an effective, cost-effective, and scalable solution to this challenge. 

One of the key issues in this area is limited access to markets for farmers and small businesses. Digital technology addresses this issue by providing equal access to market information, prices, and trends. It empowers businesses and business owners to build transactions with confidence, knowing that the platform will handle delivery, payment, and loyalty processes. In addition, by improving access to credit, the platform opens up new investment opportunities. Most importantly, it enables green research and lending, enabling India’s transition towards a more sustainable future. 

  1. Could you provide insights into BiofuelCircle's flagship product and its anticipated impact on the biofuel sector?

BiofuelCircle has set up a Digital platform for Bioenergy Supply Chain. The platform has helped set up a unique farm-to-fuel ecosystem that connects farmers, rural enterprises, biomass processors, to industries wanting to replace fossil fuels with sustainable biofuels. BiofuelCircle aims to be a catalyst for India’s energy transition roadmap.  By fostering business growth and cultivating fresh opportunities within the Farm-to-Fuel sector, we are promoting a circular economy for agri-waste, empowering rural communities, and actively contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions.

In India, small and widely dispersed farms pose significant challenges for mechanization, leading to inefficient waste disposal practices. Many farmers resort to burning waste due to its convenience and cost-effectiveness. While agri-residue production primarily occurs in rural areas, the demand is concentrated in more developed markets. BiofuelCircle addresses these issues by bridging the gaps through its innovative digital platform.

Its B2B e-marketplace serves as a vital link between buyers and sellers, it extends their reach, provides essential decision-making tools, offers transparent price information, ensure equal access for all stakeholders, and manages the complexities of transport and logistics.

Its cloud-based digital platform aims to tackle all challenges related to the bioenergy supply chain even at ground level, making a positive impact on the rural economy and farmer community through its Biomass BanksTM.

BiofuelCircle views Biomass BankTM as a true reflection of circular business enterprises that could ensure local level value creation in distributed supply clusters. Creating a Biomass BankTM involves cutting stubble, aggregating it, and compressing it into bales that are easy to transport for storage. The Biomass BankTM increases the value of agri-waste for farmers, offering them entry into the industrial supply chain, all through digital enablement by its platform.

The Farm to Fuel Economy 

  1. In what ways does BiofuelCircle facilitate a farm-to-fuel economy for all involved stakeholders?

At the ground level, companies are increasingly turning to solid biofuels as a sustainable alternative to coal. Industries such as food, pharmaceuticals, dairy, paint, rubber, and tyres depend on steam for their processes, traditionally generated by burning coal to heat water in boilers. However, many leading companies are committed to achieving carbon neutrality and reducing their carbon footprint. 

BiofuelCircle is instrumental in aiding these businesses in the transition from coal to briquettes and pellets—bio-coal derived from agricultural residue.

Farmers supply the necessary raw materials for biofuels, with intermediaries in the supply chain handling the conversion of agri-residue into valuable biofuels such as briquettes and pellets. 

Alternatively, the production of Compressed Biogas (CBG) from raw biomass offers a viable substitute for natural gas, serving automotive and heating needs efficiently.

A farmer generates wealth from agri-waste by selling it.

Small rural enterprises get new growth opportunities as they engage in collection, transport, storage and processing.

Logistics and finance service providers become our network partners.

Industries and bio-energy companies procure biomass and biofuels seamlessly. At a click, they can discover biomass suppliers, trade, negotiate and deal – all transparently.

With this, we are bringing in reliability and dependability for industrial biofuel consumers and inclusivity for rural participants. 

  1. What challenges does BiofuelCircle encounter during technology implementation, and what approaches are taken to address them?

We firmly believe that digitalization is the key enabler in unlocking India's bioenergy potential. It is a common misconception that progress requires high-tech solutions; what is truly needed are advanced yet appropriate technologies that enable disruption. Therefore, we approached each segment of the supply chain differently when implementing digitalization.

For instance, biofuel consumers are typically corporations with most users accessing the platform from an office. We fine-tuned our web app for these large entities, as some corporate IT departments were uncomfortable using a mobile app for enterprise applications. On the other hand, biomass processors are rarely in their offices. They travel frequently, and even when they are not traveling, they are usually active in their manufacturing plants. To make access easier for them, we focused processor and seller-related functionality on our mobile app.

For farmers and Biomass Bank operators, WhatsApp is the most popular means of communication. Introducing a new mobile app would have required a new learning curve, so we built a WhatsApp bot to enable them to transact in a conversational mode. Additionally, we are deploying smart sensors that will automatically collect most data, reducing the need for human input. Thus, the use of appropriate yet advanced technology helps us facilitate the introduction of digitalization across the supply chain.

  1. What are your thoughts on the growing adoption of Compressed Biogas (CBG) as a substitute for traditional fuels like petrol, diesel, and CNG? What is the role of feedstock sourcing? 

CBG (Compressed Biogas) is emerging as a promising sustainable gaseous biofuel. The production of Compressed Biogas (CBG) offers a viable substitute for natural gas, serving automotive and heating needs efficiently. 

This methane-rich fuel, purified biogas resulting from the anaerobic decomposition of organic waste like agricultural residue in a digestor, offers substantial potential. However, obtaining the full potential of CBG requires year-round access to large amounts of feedstock. It is challenging due to difficulties in gathering and transporting agri-waste to processing facilities.

Sourcing of large-scale feedstock for bio-energy companies such as CBG plants or biodiesel plants is faced with supply chain bottlenecks at the grass root level, making year-round availability & reliability a challenge.

BiofuelCircle provides supply chain as a service through its digital cloud-based platform, to build a supply infrastructure required to power these biomass energy plants.

  1. Could you elaborate on how companies are engaging with BiofuelCircle's platform, particularly in relation to procuring Agro residue biomass pellets?

As you may know, the Ministry of Power encourages entities to blend biomass with coal, aiming for 7% by FY 25-26. Co-firing is a sustainable, low-cost option for efficiently converting biomass to electricity. Co-firing feasibility depends largely on the availability of biomass fuels. Proximity to pellet manufacturers, optimized transportation costs, and dependable supply are paramount.

BiofuelCircle, as a digital platform, facilitates seamless procurement of biomass and biofuels, connecting you with verified suppliers and ensuring a reliable and uninterrupted supply.

Notably, NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation Limited) has formally adopted the platform and is conducting pilot programs to facilitate this procurement. NTPC recently conducted a successful reverse auction of biomass pellets for their Mauda, Nagpur plant through our platform.

In this auction, 15 verified pellet suppliers near the plant participated and 5 of them got successful deals, with its deliveries underway.

BiofuelCircle’s live auctions enable quick decision-making and offer a wide selection of pellet makers to choose from. Moreover, all suppliers on the platform undergo an extensive verification process, ensuring their reliability and the quality of their products.


Digital Innovations BioFuelCircle Bioenergy