The Kenya Nut Company, near Nairobi, will be the first farm in the world to produce fertilizer, on site, that’s free of fossil fuels.
A small fertilizer plant, built by U.S. startup Talus Renewables, will use solar power to strip hydrogen from water. The liberated hydrogen will then bond with nitrogen in the air to form liquid ammonia. Every day, the plant will produce 1 ton of ammonia, which can be applied to crops as fertilizer.
Typically, ammonia is made by isolating hydrogen from natural gas, not water, in a process that unleashes large volumes of heat-trapping gas. Globally, the climate impact of ammonia production rivals that of air travel.
Because ammonia production relies so heavily on natural gas, it is also vulnerable to supply disruptions. Russia, a leading gas producer, is the world’s second-biggest maker of ammonia. Sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine have hindered fertilizer exports, driving up prices globally, with farmers in Africa hit especially hard.
Green ammonia, made from water using clean power, promises to curb the climate impact of fertilizer. If produced on site, it could have the added benefit of insulating growers from supply shocks.
“The average bag of fertilizer in sub-Saharan Africa travels 10,000 kilometers,” Talus founder Hiro Iwanaga told Bloomberg. With a small green ammonia plant, like the one coming online in Kenya, “you can locally produce a critical raw material, carbon free.”