Coffee Energizing Biofuels Research

January 23, 2018 - NREL scientist Phil Pienkos' research at NREL

Photo illustration by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

By Phil Pienkos, NREL

When it comes to sustainability in the coffee supply chain, industry members have been finding creative ways to conserve on every level, from the farm to the coffee shop. But what happens to the grounds after the coffee’s brewed?

Many coffee shops already have composting programs, but what if there were a way, not only to divert used grounds from the landfill, but to use those grounds to produce energy? Research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is exploring this question — and is starting to see some exciting developments with help from the coffee industry.

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Data Snapshot: Building Resilient Coffee Farms


A New Industry Guide for Renovation & Rehabilitation

Coffee-growing regions around the world are feeling the impact of aging trees and diseases (such as coffee leaf rust, pictured above), on the quality and supply of coffee. Supporting responsible coffee farm renovation and rehabilitation is crucial to the future of coffee, and the longevity of our industry.

That’s why the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, in partnership with USAID’s Bureau for Food Security and  Dalberg Advisors, has released  a new Guidebook for Roasters, Traders, and Supply Chain Partners

The Guidebook is a comprehensive resource for companies, governments, investors, and service providers interested in undertaking Renovation & Rehabilitation (R&R) efforts; it:

  • Defines the need and makes the case for renovation and rehabilitation
  • Provides practical & useful tips on how to structure R&R programs 
  • Suggests ways that different stakeholders can engage in R&R
  • Presents case studies and links to experts and service providers

R&R investments are critical for ensuring the continued supply of coffee and meeting future demand. While governments and actors in coffee value chains have invested USD 1.2 billion in R&R so far, this has only met around 5% of the smallholder farmers in need

According to the Guidebook, if the industry did reach these farmers in need of R&R, benefits would include more coffee, higher incomes for farmers, and reduction in future deforestation.

Here’s a look at the numbers: Continue reading

What Upsiide Tells Us About Coffee Production and Consumer Perception


By Michael Edwards, Dig Insights

Upsiide is a new idea screening app that is inspired by Tinder. Designed by Dig Insights (the experts behind the NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends Report), the mobile platform connects companies to real-time consumer feedback and powerful analytics.

The concept sounds complicated, but it’s simple to use. Here’s how it works:

Survey respondents using the app are shown an idea (a potential claim, a new beverage idea, a packaging idea, a branding idea a positioning idea, etc.). The idea can be expressed with any combination of text, images, and/or video. The respondent swipes right or left to like or dislike the idea, or can request more information. Once two ideas are liked, they are paired head-to-head for the respondent to indicate which concept they prefer most. The winning concept is advanced to the next round of trade-off.

The NCA used Upsiide to test how consumers react to coffee production information, including certifications, information about the farms where the coffee is grown, information about the coffee strain used in the product, etc.

So, what does Upsiide tell us about coffee production information?

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Behind the NCA Coffee Gives Back Program

By William (Bill) Murray, President & CEO, National Coffee Association


“The farmer has to be an optimist, or he wouldn’t be a farmer.” 

Will Rogers, U.S. Social Commentator, 1879-1935  

More than any other pursuit, successful farming depends on “external” factors.  Successful farming depends upon some things that can’t be controlled easily, and some things that can’t be controlled at all.

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Reframing the Narrative on Coffee Production ROI


A coffee farmer inspects his crop in Colombia. Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT) – via Wikimedia

Perspectives on the New SCA Report On Farm Profitability

In an article published on Daily Coffee News, Kraig Kraft from CRS Coffeelands addressed the Specialty Coffee Association’s recently released report that reviewed existing public information about farm profitability and costs.

The main — and surprising — conclusion from the analysis is that farm yield is not correlated to farm income. On the surface, this seems somewhat paradoxical.

Why wouldn’t higher production lead to more income?

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Breaking New Ground in Gender Research in Coffee

The following is a guest post submitted to The First Pull. See our guest post guidelines


Women coffee farmers in Rwanda. Source: IWCA

By Ruth Ann Church and Josiane Cotrim Macieira, The International Women’s Coffee Alliance

In coffee, the women who perform much of the labor – up to 70%, according to the ITC’s Coffee Exporters’ Guide – to grow, harvest, process, and export coffee are all too often invisible.

Few organizations are focused on collecting or publishing data specifically on the women involved in the supply chain for commodities like coffee; and there has been little to no funding allocated to this task. Even in Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producing country, the lack of data makes one believe that women do not exist.

Experts agree that women are the greatest untapped resource available to avert challenges to the global coffee industry. But the lack of data on women makes it impossible to understand their impact  in the value chain. This leads to under-performance in the coffee industry, much like how poor recognition of contributions in any industry can cause lagging productivity.

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A Producer’s Perspective: Challenges Across the Coffee Value Chain

Editor’s note: Next month, the global coffee industry will gather in Medellin for the World Coffee Producers Forum to explore how to strengthen farmers, discussing sustainability, labor, managing price volatility, and improving productivity and yields.  Here, Frederick Kawuma, Secretary General of the Inter African Coffee Organization (IACO), sets the stage for these discussions by providing an overview from the producers’ perspective.


Coffee farmer Feleke Dukamo checks the latest coffee prices. Source: Wikimedia Commons

By Frederick Kawuma, Secretary General of the Inter African Coffee Organization (IACO)

There has recently been a spate of studies analyzing the income of coffee farmers. The first thing that becomes evident is that the income from coffee farming varies depending on the country, and even the region within the country, where the studies have been done.

The second thing that becomes evident is that the income from coffee farming depends on the price the farmer gets for his coffee, which depends on “the market.”

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Gender Equity: Strengthening the Links of the Coffee Supply Chain


Gender equity is good for the coffee business.

The Partnership for Gender Equity (PGE) believes that vibrant farming communities are the key to producing better coffee, and more of it. Therefore, they’re working to address this issue through large-scale collaboration, standardized best practices, and stronger data – starting with the report, “The Way Forward: Accelerating Gender Equity in Coffee Value Chains.”

During a recent NCA webinar, “Gender Equity: Strengthening the Links of the Coffee Supply Chain,” industry experts Kimberly Easson, Samantha Veide, and Chad Trewick discussed key findings, required resources, and where the industry can go from here.

Four highlights emerged from the research:

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Data Snapshot: Coffee Farmer Income


Photo courtesy of Fairtrade International

via Fairtrade America

Around 80% of the world’s coffee is produced by 17.7 million small-scale coffee farmers. And while the coffee industry aims to be a sustainability leader, the fact is that many farmers continue to struggle to make ends meet and support their families.

New research finds that the future of coffee depends on adequate income for farmers. A pilot study by Fairtrade International and True Price shows that despite sustainability pledges in the coffee sector, many coffee farmers struggle to make ends meet.

Key findings from the report include: 

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