Tunisian Company Helps Dairy Farmers Convert Waste into Revenue
USAID INVEST partner CrossBoundary supported the Tunisian company Methania with an equity raise. Methania’s technology turns manure into biogas, which can be repurposed to power farms, and captures harmful methane gasses from being released into the atmosphere. The following article explains how CrossBoundary’s support will help Methania become a more sustainable company, grow their business model, and create new jobs for Tunisians.
By Carolanne Chanik, INVEST Communications Advisor
According to the International Trade Administration, large agricultural enterprises are increasingly prominent in Tunisia, making it a prime location for international investment. However, the sector remains difficult to navigate for smaller-sized operations. Dairy farmers, for example, spend a large percentage of their earnings on necessities like electricity, heat, and chemical fertilizer.
These farmers generate a lot of animal waste and, correspondingly, a lot of environmentally harmful methane emissions. These emissions are 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year time horizon.
Solutions that turn manure into biogas, capturing methane in the process, can address this problem while increasing incomes for farmers at the same time. But most commercially available solutions do not work well for anything smaller than an industrial-sized farm that churns out 50 tons of manure per day. (For context, smaller-sized dairy operations produce 300 tons of manure on average per year).
Methania, a Tunisia-based biogas provider, is solving this problem with support from USAID. Salim Kanzari and Tahar Azizi co-founded Methania in 2015 to help small dairy farmers repurpose their manure into useful fertilizer. Without a biogas converter, farmers must let manure sit outside for up to a year in order to use it as fertilizer, during which time bacteria break down the waste, releasing methane into the atmosphere.
Methania’s JallaGaz solution prevents these methane emissions from happening. It turns waste into biogas, which can then be converted into electricity and fertilizer. Dairy and livestock farmers can use these resources for their own operations or sell them to add new revenue. According to Methania, earnings from biogas and fertilizer can lead to a 15–20% increase in revenue for farmers.
The U.S. Agency for International Development’s Mission in Tunisia supports small and medium-sized businesses like Methania that can solve local problems, drive economic growth, and create jobs. At the Prosper Africa Conference in Tunisia in 2020, USAID worked with the INVEST initiative and its partner CrossBoundary to identify and connect with high-potential enterprises that were poised to grow, but needed support to attract investment.
CrossBoundary met with Methania during a business-to-business-focused session and learned that Methania was pursuing a second fundraise for $2.5 million in equity financing. The investment would be used to scale production and sales across Northern Africa and parts of Europe, especially France.
Following the conference, USAID provided Methania with additional support to help it raise the private capital it needed to grow. CrossBoundary worked with Methania to revamp its investment memo and financial model, introduce and facilitate discussion with investors, and provide due diligence support. “We also helped them to negotiate with the investors when it came to determining Methania’s valuation,” says CrossBoundary’s Kirtika Challa.
And while Methania had a strong business and growth model, there were still challenges facing an ag-focused company in Tunisia. “One constraint was that this is not a tech-focused company,” says Challa. “It takes a bit more effort particularly to attract foreign capital to these kinds of businesses. Investors need a bit more time to dig into the business model and fully understand how the company operates.”
Another investment constraint involved the company’s growth potential. “Tunisian companies can’t just be focused on Tunisia; it’s a fairly small economy. Luckily, Methania already had a target for global expansion,” explains Challa. “There are a lot of dairy farms across Europe and North Africa, so that really has been, and continues to be, a key part of their growth story.”
Ultimately, CrossBoundary positioned Methania to receive an equity investment of $2.5 million from Tunisian investors–Zitouna Capital, a private equity subsidiary of Banque Zitouna, the first Islamic bank in Tunisia, alongside a small follow-on investment from one of their existing investors, United Gulf Financial Services, a Tunisia-based private equity fund.
With the new investments, Methania hopes to create up to 40 new jobs for Tunisians, increase its revenue by 300%, and significantly reduce emissions over the next four years. “Methania gives smaller-scale dairy farmers and other relevant stakeholders in the agribusiness sector the ability to turn waste into valuable resources and start incorporating environmentally friendly solutions into their day-to-day lives,” says Challa. “They are contributing towards a critical and underserved part of the climate solutions landscape, implementing greenhouse gas removal solutions which are growing in importance as we acknowledge that carbon reduction and avoidance strategies alone will not be sufficient to meet our global climate commitments.”