Coffee farmers often earn far too little for their product. In Peru, a startup is introducing them to a solar-powered technology that allows them to become coffee roasters and, consequently, increase their earning potential.
Coffee farmers are right at the start of the supply chain. They normally just supply the commodity – the coffee beans – and take home just a fraction of the profit. In Peru, where coffee is the most important agricultural product, there is now a solution that enables farmers to carry out the last step in the production chain, and, through this, raise their income.
The startup Café Compadre is making technology available to farmers that allows them to roast their coffee beans themselves. Here’s the showstopper: the solution uses an energy source that farmers have access to in abundance – the sun.
100 Per Cent Solar-Roasted Coffee
The solution bundles solar beams with a Scheffler reflector and directs them to a rotating drum that contains coffee beans. The drum is open on one side so that quality-lowering gasses and moisture produced during the roasting process can be released. The drum rotates with the aid of a small photovoltaic rotation system, which allows for consistent, even roasting.
It takes 15 to 25 minutes to roast one kilo of coffee beans in this way. This is comparable to the time and capacity of conventional, similarly sized roasting machines. On top of that, this solar solution uses five times less energy as conventional roasting machines. This robust appliance is 100 per cent solar operated and is easy to take apart and transport in rural areas. The technology is also scalable; the entire apparatus can be constructed so that a larger amount of beans can be roasted.
A Sustainable Approach with Social Impact
Café Compadre was founded in 2015. The company doesn’t just provide the technology to the farmers, it also demonstrates how to use it and maintain it. The startup also takes care of direct distribution in Peru; the roasted beans are sold under the Compadre brand with the name of the respective coffee farmer listed. The income is divvied up in such a way that farmers that use these machines can earn up to four times as much as if they simply sold green (unroasted) coffee beans.
Over the past year, the Peruvian startup has carried out a pilot project with one farmer. As part of this, 600 kilos of beans were roasted. Currently Café Compadre is working on building the programme so that more farmers can benefit from it. Alongside this, the organisation is planning a production location in the Peruvian jungle that would have the capacity to process 6,000 kilos of coffee every month.
In October 2016, Café Compadre received the empowering people. Award from the Siemens Stiftung. The international competition recognises the most innovative low-tech solutions that are used in a sustainable way to improve life in developing countries.