Otago is a Cambodia-based startup company that offers a green and healthier alternative to firewood and charcoal. It needs support to scale up its operations, test markets, and expand across the region. A grant support from ADB Ventures is helping Otago with its growth strategy. This grant gives ADB Ventures the option to make an equity investment in Otago for future expansions.

ADB Ventures is the Asian Development Bank's new impact venture investment facility. It will finance technology startups that address climate change, empower women, and help its developing members meet their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 


Phnom Penh, Cambodia—"I used to rely on traditional charcoal for cooking. Then Otago introduced their green charcoal. I tried it and saw its benefits. I've been using green charcoal for the past five years. I decided to use it because this green charcoal does not make smoke or sparks. We also contribute to saving the forests", shares Lin Hay, a restaurant owner in Phnom Penh.

Open fires and traditional stoves are still commonly used in many parts of developing Asia. A startup company based in Cambodia has introduced an alternative to firewood and charcoal for cooking.

Its manufacture and use reduce damage to the environment through practices like illegal logging. It also minimizes air pollution and is a healthier option for end-users.

Carlo Talamanca, CEO and Founder of Otago talks about his company's innovative product, "We receive our raw materials from the market, which are usually coconut shells and other biomass. The coconut shells are crushed into smaller pieces and carbonized in these kilns, which we invented ourselves. We combine them with cassava. We compress them and extrude them through machines to become compact char-briquettes. 

The cool thing about our technology is that we can use the same heat that we used for our carbonized kiln to dry our char-briquettes further on the process and we produce a high-quality product that is used in kitchens, restaurants and by street food vendors around Phnom Phen and Cambodia and we also started exporting. But the impact of Otago is not just saving the environment by reducing deforestation. Our charcoals also provide a healthier and safer product for our end-users. And last but not the least, Otago creates employments".

Asia and the Pacific is brimming with technology solutions.

ADB has launched a new impact venture facility called ADB Ventures. It will finance technology startups that address climate change, empower women, and help developing countries meet their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

ADB Ventures has provided Otago grant support to scale up its operations. The grant gives ADB Ventures to make an equity investment in Otago. 

"ADB Ventures has an investment fund as well as attached to it a technical assistance program so that we will be able to support companies both through funding and finance, as well as through various technical assistance support that will leverage ADB’s operational technical networks, know-how and knowledge of the markets in which we operate.

It’s a 17-year fund life and we can provide follow-on funds up to 10 years – that’s important for certain sectors like agriculture, cleantech – that have more capital-intensive and longer payback periods and where there is more uncertainty", explains Dominic Mellor, a Senior Investment Specialist in ADB's Private Sector Operations Department.

With assistance from ADB Ventures, Talamanca looks forward to Otago's growth strategy. "We are at the stage where we showed the success of our business model, our technology in our product. So now with ADB Ventures, we’re trying to raise funds to build a bigger factory in Cambodia and eventually more factories in Cambodia.

The most exciting part of our growth strategy is to expand through our franchise model all over Asia to sell our products locally and also have the same benefits in terms of environmental and social impacts in all of these new countries." 

ADB Ventures is a multi-donor trust fund that will help countries meet their SDGs.

Interested in partnering with ADB Ventures? Contact us at [email protected]

ADB Ventures Investment Fund 1 investors: Finland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Clean Technology Fund, Nordic Development Fund, Republic of Korea's Ministry of Economy and Finance.