What is QUBE and what do they do?

QUBE Renewables converts biodegradable waste into energy to provide heat, power and sanitation. QUBE provides localised energy solutions with robust and efficient micro and small-scale AD systems operating at 3-30 kW electrical. We have developed, trialled and are now selling several variations on the original bioQUBE including powerQUBE, quickQUBE, lagoonQUBE and dryQUBE.

I am intrigued to know what experience you and your husband had that enabled you to establish a business based on the manufacture of ‘flat pack' anaerobic digestion kits?

We have a background in environmental science having met at university whilst doing the same degree. After working in a variety of environmentally based positions we moved to the West Country and set up our own environmental consultancy. Fifteen years later with 16 employees, we've gained lots of experience in the three main sectors of the business - carbon and energy, environmental management and planning and development. Part of the business dealt with AD and waste management and we'd developed a reputation for delivering innovative environmental projects. Through our consultancy work we were approached by the MOD to conduct a feasibility study looking at the possibility of using AD for food and sewage waste.

What experience made you want to build a business on flat pack anaerobic
digestion products?

Through the feasibility study it became clear that there was nothing on the market that fulfilled what was an obvious need for commercially viable AD units at small scale. We wanted to bring that to market.

How did you get it off the ground?

In collaboration with the MOD we designed and built the first pilot plant, which was installed on our farm to trial. Running a small AD unit can be likened to managing a mechanical cow, you feed it and out comes biogas and fertiliser. We had ample manure on our farm, we supplemented this with food waste and spent yeast from our local brewery.

We were quickly producing biogas and running our house on the electricity we produced. Our three children quickly got the hang of it - we once spotted them, bare bottoms out on the top of the waste reception tank, giggling to each other. When we got back to the house and switched on the lights, our then 7-year-old proudly announced "that's my light" - you can guess what they'd been doing in the tank...

Since then we've developed a suite of technologies including a foldable fabric digester that can be dropped out of a helicopter for the military and disaster relief, a biogas generator and boiler, very small-scale biomethane upgrading equipment for vehicle fuelling, floating ‘pods' that can collect and use the biogas from slurry lagoons, and a digestion system for dry agricultural wastes.

Was finance a problem?

We have been fortunate as our other shareholding companies have committed funds to getting the business to a start-up stage. We took the decision to use our own money, allowing us to grow organically, which probably meant it's been a slightly slower start but has afforded us the time to develop new technologies.

Who buys the kits and are they one size fits all purposes?

Our clients fall into three main categories: F&B, agriculture, and humanitarian. QUBE manufactures and installs a standard format of equipment that we bespoke to meet the needs of our clients.

How is 2018 and beyond shaping up for QUBE Renewables?

We've already had a big deployment of kit to both Canada and the Philippines. We're very excited at having recently started the first dryQUBE, enabling the digestion of rice straw. In the UK we are looking at new projects in very urban settings where AD wouldn't normally be considered as a waste disposal option. We're also bidding for a project to support an NGO in Bangladesh Myanmar border.

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