Mario Salgado looking to revolutionize agro-industrial biomass waste refinement

ISC3 – International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre

Ecuadorian entrepreneur works on the up-cycling of agro-industrial biomass waste


1. Mario Alejandro Heredia Salgado, Founder of Andes Bioenergy; Copyright: ISC3/Lösel 2. The workshop of the "Andes Bioenergy" Start-up. 3. Biochar Reactor delivery at a small scale agro-industry in Ecuador. 4. Biochar pellets from palm oil wastes; Copyright: M. Heredia.

Mario Salgado has developed a process to produce biochar from agribusiness biomass wastes which can improve tropical soils as well as provide renewable thermal energy. With his start-up “Andes Bioenergy” he is engaged in several demonstration projects and is scaling up the prototypes of his reactor. Mario Salgado is also the first winner of the Elsevier-ISC3 “Entrepreneurial Spirit in Sustainable Chemistry Award”.

  • Year of foundation: 2015
  • Addresses the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 13, 15, 17
  • First reactor sold: 2018

Mario Alejandro Heredia Salgado, an Ecuadorian entrepreneur, works on the up-cycling of agro-industrial biomass waste into biochar and renewable thermal energy, thus reducing environmental damage. So far, most of the agro-industrial biomass waste is hoarded at field sites. This jeopardizes the quality of the surrounding environment by releasing significant CO2 and CH4 emissions, contaminating groundwater through leaching, and attracting air vector-borne diseases. Mario Salgado's innovation, the P-SMART (Pyrolysis Small and Modular Auger Reactor) turns this waste into biochar and gives small-scale agro-industries the opportunity to become (early-stage) biorefineries.

"Entrepreneurship is one of the main tools to give your research findings a meaning," Mario Alejandro Heredia Salgado in our video after the award ceremony.

Agricultural use of biochar produced from biomass waste may potentially amend soils contaminated with heavy metals, restore eroded soils, reduce fertilizer and irrigation water utilization and increase drought tolerance and crop yields. The generated thermal energy could, in turn, reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions associated with fossil fuel burning – a common practice currently used for heat production at agro-industrial facilities. By offering more affordable, efficient and sustainable waste management technologies, the service is particularly relevant for small and medium scale agro-industrial facilities (such as palm oil mills, cocoa, coffee, corn, and rice processing centres) in developing countries.

Contributions to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

The innovation of Mario Salgado can significantly contribute to sustainable development and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Residual biomass refined and up-cycled into biochar and thermal energy through the technology he adapted, aims to promote innovation in waste management practices of the agro-industrial sector, benefiting farming economies, mitigating climate change by replacing fossil fuels and associated greenhouse gas emissions, and restoring tropical forests by preventing agricultural frontier expansion. Currently, the implementation of the P-SMART technology into the Ecuadorian agro-industrial sector is being promoted by a network of stakeholders including agro-industries, farmer cooperatives, NGOs, universities, and national research institutes.

"We can increase Andes' impact in the north Ecuadorian Amazon"

The ISC3 supports “Andes Bioenergy” with further development and expansion. Mario Salgado is the winner of the first Award for Entrepreneurial Spirit in Sustainable Chemistry, which has been granted by the ISC3 as part of the Elsevier Foundation ISC3 Green and Sustainable Chemistry Challenge. “Right after receiving the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, the ISC3 supported me with a travel grant to be part of the Summer School on Sustainable Chemistry for Sustainable Development at Leuphana University, Lüneburg in September 2019. I am excited about the opportunities that the ISC3 is opening for me as a scientist/entrepreneur and for my start-up Andes Bioenergy. With a big share of the money award received in May, the engineering team will scale up our latest prototype reactor and also improve the energy efficiency of the process. Hence, we can increase Andes' impact in the north Ecuadorian Amazon, where we are up-cycling the wastes generated in palm oil mills into soil amendments and renewable energy. I have been following the strategic alliances that the ISC3 are seeding with major innovation players in Latin America. For my start-up Andes, being one of the nodes of this large Latin America innovation stakeholder’s network is the beginning of big things.”