photo courtesy of goldstandard.org
A quick Google Search will turn up many names integral to the history of the Biogas Industry. Val Helment, a Brussels doctor credited with being the first to record information on 15 gases he observed being released from decomposing organic matter. Walter Sluys, a farmer in Holland who was the first to use methane to power lights. The list goes on.
But what about the man known as the "Father of Biogas?"
His name is Jashbhai J Patel though even that is incredibly hard to find for some reason. There isn't even a Wikipedia page for him.
He was born February 22, 1909 in Valvod in Gujarat, India. He graduated from the College of Agriculture at Pune in 1931. From that point on he would dedicate his professional life to what was seen at the time as an experiment too costly to be truly viable. India is famous for its human population, second most in the world behind China, but did you know more than 60% of all the cattle in the world also live in India? Jashbhai saw that much organic waste as an opportunity and knew he would be able create a viable system for making use of it.
He spent the better part of the next 20 years designing and implementing small-scale Biogas digesters, targeting farm laborers as opposed to large scale projects. However, between 1949 and 1953, he would ultimately finalize designs for what he called his Gramlakshmi Plant and prove even at a large scale this 'experiment' of Biogas could not only be viable, but profitable. Although other individuals and institutions were also attempting to design their own biogas plants, in 1961 the Khadi and Village Industry Commission chose to promote Patel's Gramlakshmi III design. It was more costly than other models proposed but it had a longer life, was low maintenance, and crucially, had a decidedly better Biogas output.
Jashbhai was appointed director of the KVIC's newly created Biogas Division and his designs began implementation en masse with tens of thousands of Gramlakshmi Biogas plants being built over the next decade and beyond, staunchly proving the viability of Biogas to the world. The plants would become so popular in his native India, it was once reported families in the Mukimpur village of the country's Bulandshahr district refused to allow their daughters to marry into families of villages which didn't have a biogas plant.
Jashbhai formerly retired in 1965 but remained as an honorary advisory to the KVIC. He continued promoting Biogas the rest of his life, even addressing the International Biogas Conference at his Alma Matter in Pune in 1990. He would pass away two years later May 20,1992.
As Biogas continues to become even more sought after as an alternative and renewable energy source, It is worth remembering the contributions of the man who earned the title the "Father of Biogas" and helped prove to the world it could be precisely that.