Every morning I, like over 1 billion other people around the world, make myself a cup of coffee. I have never thought too hard about where my beans have originated from; to me, an Italian Blend in a Cafetiere is just as nice as a Guatemalan Filter.
Reading an article by the BBC, I found out that I, along with millions of others, am “drinking a brew made, at least in part, from Brazilian beans.”
Christiano Borges, the CEO of Ipanema Coffees, Brazil’s largest coffee producer, describes Brazilian beans to have, “popular characteristics” such as the “body and sweetness”.
According to the article, Brazil grows 37% of all coffee beans, coming to over one-third of global supplies. 70% of the coffee plants are arabica species, which are used in fresh coffee. The rest are robusta, used in instant coffee.
Last year Brazil’s annual coffee crop dropped by almost one quarter due to droughts in the coffee regions. This has led to a commercial coffee crisis resulting in wholesale prices doubling since this time last year.
Brazil’s largest coffee producers have had to turn to technology to help them grow the best crop, in both quantity and quality.
An app called Cropwise Protector – developed by agricultural tech firm, Syngenta – is now being used in Brazil. The app is linked to ground sensors and satellites which help the farmers gain a visual analysis of the plantation. Subsequently, they can apply area-specific cures to the plants, whether it be pest control or drip irrigation. This approach is faster and kinder to the environment as a cure for a specific area doesn’t have to be applied to the whole farm.
The article speaks to Bruno Hiroiti, a coffee bean manager at Okuyama. He explains that the company has “invested in technologies for the coffee drying process, where [they] can monitor the temperature, which is defined by the type of coffee [they] are drying.”
Okuyama dries the coffee beans in drum heaters after harvesting, this stops them from spoiling while they are stored before being roasted. Getting the temperature and timing correct is vital to ensure there are no beans wasted and no excess energy used.
Mr Borges, at Impanema Coffees, says that they also have gone for more tech. “We have made a huge investment on semi-automated irrigation, where the system measures the water deficit and weather conditions – giving us recommendations for each area.”
He also notes that the investments are reducing their environmental impact “We have climate problems such as droughts, and global temperature increases. The irrigation system has helped us to improve our productivity… and it has become climate insurance for us.”
Ipanema has also for a few years been using selection machines which pick out all of the ripe beans. The machine can do this through colour programming, undefined colours are expelled through compressed air jets.
Flora Viana, global marketing manager for digital agriculture at Syngenta explains that producers no longer increase production by buying new land. “We are reaching the limit of areas available, producers need to instead optimise their production process.”
At Ipanema, Mr Borges illustrates that their 800 employees often go to college for training because “It is pointless to have great tools if we don’t have a team motivated and prepared for them.”
However, these advancements are currently only being seen in these larger companies. The smaller more rural producers that produce 66% of the country’s crop are behind. The hope is that 5g networks will improve connections in these areas making the technology more available to them.
Coffee has become such an intrinsic part of so many of our daily routines that the demand is now paramount. To ensure we can all get our caffeine fix, the technologies must continue to grow and develop, fighting against nature’s battles. It would be nice to see the new technologies aiding more of the smaller plantations, enabling them to grow and develop at a similar growth rate to their larger counterparts. It will also be interesting to see the new solutions over the next ten years and how this could mould the coffee market, for both the growers and consumers.
“We are reaching the limit of areas available, producers need to instead optimise their production process.”