As one of the most-traded food and beverage commodities in the world by volume, coffee is a popular choice of beverage for millions of people, resulting in the consumption of close to 400 billion cups each year. More than 50 countries are involved in the production of coffee beans, and estimates show that the coffee industry provides a livelihood to nearly 10% of the global population, or up to 800 million people, at different levels of production and distribution.
With four main species — Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica — and dozens of varieties and cultivars, coffee is also used as a key ingredient in chocolates, cosmetics and beauty products, fragrances, and, surprisingly, art, furniture and jewellery too! Although much in demand for its unmatched flavour, the production of coffee is riddled with numerous challenges, predominantly due to the plant’s sensitivity to weather fluctuations. Rising temperatures and unpredictable rainfall as a result of climate change pose an immense threat to the coffee plant’s yield and, to a great extent, the quality of the harvested beans. Arabica in particular requires a cooler climate, and the global rise in temperature is altering the plant’s growth in terms of its ability to flower and bear fruit, and is also contributing to an increase in pests that earlier couldn’t thrive in cold conditions. The changing climatic conditions have also negatively impacted soil fertility, so much so it might lead to a 10-20% decline in overall crop yields by 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Source: Coffee Co-Mission
To combat these and numerous supply chain challenges, the coffee industry is now turning to technological advancements and investing in modern digital tools to produce the finest beans for every type of product. With even the smallest shift in climatic conditions affecting the cultivation of coffee and consequently the price of coffee beans, the digitalisation of the coffee supply chain plays a critical role in identifying various points where the different actors in the industry can leverage technology to add value to the final produce in the most effective way possible.
There is an abundance of big data at the different levels of crop production, which is today being leveraged by a myriad of agri-tech solutions to transform the industry into one that is high performing, scientific and predictable. Tech-based agricultural innovations today allow coffee growers to capture these critical data points to not only digitise the process of planning and monitoring every stage of coffee cultivation, but also to identify problem areas and mitigate risks effectively.
CropIn’s state-of-the-art farm management solution SmartFarm empowers agri-focussed organisations to engage with the different players in their ecosystem on a single platform. The digitisation of farming operations empowers the organisation to leverage advanced technologies to drive their initiatives around compliance, predictability, sustainability and traceability. Coffee farmers in all developing nations are primarily smallholder farmers, who engage with large agribusinesses and buyers. Implementing a comprehensive system that brings these farmers into the fold of digitisation ensures that there is increased transparency and visibility over the entire process from farm to shelf.
While on one hand SmartFarm empowers key actors in the organisation to monitor risks and make proactive, planned and responsive decisions on the go with its smart, actionable insights on an interactive dashboard, it also enables farm managers to keep track of which farmer is in need of what advice when. One of the major challenges that are unique to the cultivation of coffee and other plantation crops is that unlike seasonal ones such as maize, paddy or most vegetables, these are perennial crops that need year-round attention. Coffee cherries of the same plant could ripen at different times, which means that farmers need to scour the farm every once in a few days to pick the cherries that are just ripe. Picking unripe or overripe cherries can severely impact the flavour of the coffee, and even one of them in a sample could result in a considerable loss to the coffee producers.
CropIn’s platform enables the farm managers to have a clear picture of the farm’s condition and provide timely advice and adequate know-how to farmers, based on the crop’s health and predictive information on harvest date, quantity, and quality of harvest. The growers are thus able to receive timely and personalised advice for their respective crops on package of practices (agri-input plans, intercropping, etc.) as well as smart weather and other satellite-based advisory, which helps them make farming more climate-smart, sustainable and rewarding.
In addition, SmartRisk™, CropIn’s AI/ML powered decision intelligence solution provides satellite-imagery-based analytics to regularly monitor crop performance at a regional level. The future-proof application predicts expected crop stage based on sowing timelines and weather conditions, and helps understand crop health and failure patterns based on historical and current performance of farm plot. This future-ready farming solution facilitates coffee farmers to manage and monitor crops in a more accurate, affordable and scalable manner with the help of structured data aggregation and predictive and prescriptive intelligence delivered to individual growers.
CropIn empowers coffee traders to bring about efficiency in the supply chain by providing an end-to-end solution to manage both pre- and post-harvest activities. Once the coffee beans have been processed and packed for export or distribution, CropIn’s mWarehouse enables streamlined operations within a warehouse to strengthen the link between growers and the rest of the supply chain. The application facilitates efficient management of packhouse processes with its flexible inventory management and SKU tagging, thus cutting down the number of hours spent in manual labour and significantly increases productivity.
mWarehouse also optimises order fulfillment and helps in better marketability of the produce with CropIn’s farm-to-fork traceability feature, which places a unique QR code / barcode on the product’s label. Consumers around the globe can scan the QR code to trace the origins of the coffee product back to the farm where it was cultivated, and know other details pertaining to its journey from cherry to bean to the product in hand. This transparency in production processes also guarantees conscious buyers that the coffee has been ethically and sustainably sourced, with minimum or no impact to the ecosystem. CropIn’s end-to-end traceability also allows agribusinesses to secure quality and compliance certifications such as Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and USDA Organic, which facilitates hassle-free exports to international markets. This particularly carries a lot of weight for producers who cultivate specific variety of coffee or produce specialty coffee, and helps fetch a premium price for the growers. In addition, suppliers can rely on the digital record of the entire production and distribution history, to identify the exact source of the problem in the supply chain and react quickly to significantly reduce losses and prevent any blow to the brand value.
The traceability feature for the coffee supply chain can be best demonstrated through CropIn’s collaboration with Sustainable Harvest, an importer of specialty coffee from different parts of South America, Central America and Mexico, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Through an approach called “Relationship Coffee”, the organisation focuses on establishing transparent relationships between coffee growers and buyers to ensure the best value for the produce. A significant number of growers across Sustainable Harvest’s areas of operation are women who provide coffee beans to some of the well-known roasted coffee brands such as Starbucks, Peet’s, Strauss, Green Mountain, and various other brands that take keen interest in their empowerment and adhere to responsible and verified sourcing through innovative partnerships. Sustainable Harvest will leverage CropIn’s platform to ascertain the origin of coffee marked as cultivated by women, by recording the details of individual growers and allowing end users to trace this information back from the package’s label, and realise the impact that women communities have on the coffee industry. This not only ensures gender equality in coffee-growing communities of developing markets, but also provides better livelihoods to these small-scale women farmers who grow and process their own coffee.
Yet another interesting use case for CropIn’s traceability feature can be exemplified with the partnership with Moyee Coffee. This Netherlands-based speciality coffee company is the first “FairChain” coffee ensures a fairer coffee supply chain and better livelihoods for coffee growers in Ethiopia by both sourcing and roasting the coffee beans within the country. This also preserves the special flavours right at the source and adds more value and character to the end product. The objective behind FairChain is to eliminate middlemen from the supply chain and make sure that the farmers they work closely with receive the best value for the coffee beans they produce. CropIn’s leading-edge agritech solutions empowers Moyee’s field team to guide the farmers in the adoption of the best farming practices. CropIn’s platform also enables the company to provide adequate support women farmers and bring about bean-to-cup traceability for an increased premium for the smallholder farmers.
Learn more about what CropIn has to offer for coffee producers and traders — schedule a demo with our in-house AgTech expert today.