Startup Valley: FounderTalk Interview


Please introduce yourself and your startup QUBE Renewables to our readers.
QUBE Renewables is the IKEA of renewable energy. We build ‘flat pack’ renewable energy plants that converts biodegradable waste into energy to provide heat, power and sanitation. Our QUBE’s can provide biogas for cooking, heating, and electricity in places where these things are hard to come by, like remote communities in developing countries or places where the usual routes of waste disposal are either too difficult or expensive. Our kits comes in rapidly deployable units ready to plug and play, you just add waste and you get your energy.

How did you get the idea for QUBE Renewables?
QUBE’s first digester was designed after their sister company, Aardvark EM Ltd an agnostic environmental consultancy, was approached by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) who requested a solution to deal with food and sewage waste generated from their forward operating bases. As a result of this feasibility, the team started to develop modular micro AD system which would be able to be easily transported in to difficult to reach places and be run ‘off grid’, without the need for any supporting infrastructure. Built inside a standard 20ft shipping container, in their first prototype Jo Clayton one of QUBE’s co-founders, used horse manure, food waste from her stables mixed with spent yeast from a local brewery to power the pilot plant. From a farm and stables in Somerset, QUBE is now operating projects in the UK, and as far afield as Canada and the Philippines.

How difficult was the start and what challenges you had to overcome?
We wanted to demonstrate our expertise in AD before marketing ourselves. We don’t do things on the cheap or make big promises we cannot fulfill. Therefore the first hurdle we had to overcome was making an amazing product. We made sure that we didn’t rush prototypes, learnt from our mistakes and squeezed as much as we could from the first bits of feedback. A lot of patience was required to get everything as we wanted it to be.

Who is your target audience?
QUBE’s focuses on three sectors: Food and Drink, Agriculture and Humanitarian. For each sector it has designed specialised digesters: bioQUBE, lagoonQUBE, quickQUBE and dryQUBE

For the Food and Drink industry bioQUBE, which mitigates waste disposal costs and generates on site biogas, ideal for: small scale food manufacturers, breweries, canteens and supermarkets. For Farmers, lagoonQUBE is designed to capture latent biogas from slurry lagoon or tank. quickQUBE is a quick to install and ideal for transportation in a humanitarian mission. Through its latest digester, dryQUBE, QUBE is aiming to help small scale farmers around the world in developing countries. The first dryQUBE unit is being installed in the Philippines now, and hopes to make this technology a reality for communities all over the world.

What is the USP of your startup?
AD has been around for a long time, but is often used on big municipal projects requiring a high capital investment. QUBE has stripped AD back to its core principles, simplifying it for smaller projects. The digesters are all robust, easily transportable and simple to operate and service. These are central to each QUBE product, contributing to thousands of hours of continuous waste processing and biogas production.

Can you describe a typical workday of you?
It’s impossible to categorise a typical workday. One day we are packing biogas backpacks to be shipped to the Philippines. Next day we are installing doing a demo at a dairy farm in Devon. We are not afraid to get our hands dirty, which is a brave thing to say in anaerobic digestion.
Qube refuses to be shut away in offices, and oursource all the fun work. We love to get involved and be on the frontline.

Where do you see yourself and your startup QUBE Renewables in five years?
QUBE Renewables aims to expand its influence around the world. We currently have projects in the early stages in the Philippines and Canada, with some in India in the pipeline. DryQube represents are global strategy. There are at present 200 million small scale rice farmers in the world. In rice producing economies there is an increasing political will to solve the problems of unnecessary rice straw pollution and fuel poverty. QUBE’’s strategy is to develop strategic global partnerships with Government and Non-Governmental Organisations working with rural communities and to licence our know how, so systems can be build in country, using local labour and materials.

What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?
Product first. Then everything else. Remain Patient.

This interview originally appeared in StartUp Valley, FounderTalk Series

Alice Bayfield