Ever wondered how the quality of the coffee you drink each day is maintained? How do producers and buyers know it is going to taste good enough to kick start your day?
The time-honoured way is through a method called cupping which is a manual, expensive process carried out by the industry’s certified tasting experts, located in countries where coffee is exported to.
This means two things. Firstly, roasters and traders have had minimal visibility into the quality of beans they are purchasing until very late in the process, and secondly cupping is inaccessible to the vast majority of the 12.5M smallholder farmers who produce 60% of the world’s coffee beans and cannot determine or manage the quality of their crop, with many unable to earn a reliable living.
Now an Israeli startups Demetria is aiming to solve this problem by harnessing Artificial Intelligence, and has closed a $3 million seed funding round led by LatAm-Israeli investor Celeritas and a group of private investors including Mercantil Colpatria, the investment branch of Grupo Colpatria, a leading player in the Colombian financial sector.
Demetria has created the world’s first data cloud to identify and track coffee quality with full traceability. It claims to have pioneered the digitisation of coffee aroma and taste, so that it can now be assessed at any stage of the coffee production and distribution process, from farm to table.
The system works by using portable near infra-red (NIR) sensors to analyze and fingerprint green coffee beans for biochemical markers. Then Demetria’s AI-based data intelligence platform matches each bean profile according to the industry standard coffee flavor wheel.
“The ability to discover the quality of green coffee beans is a game changer for an entire industry that’s relied on a primitive supply chain and artisanal processes for 300 years. It’s hard to believe that the world’s biggest roasters have effectively been buying beans with very limited knowledge about their quality, and that the majority of coffee farmers, the most critical players in the supply chain, don’t understand the quality of their own crops and hence are paid unfairly, threatening the sustainability of this $450 billion industry,” said Demetria’s co-founder and CEO Felipe Ayerbe. “Our technology delivers vital intelligence to ensure crop consistency and quality control, resulting in readdressing the economics of the coffee value chain to benefit every key player.”
Demetria has successfully completed a pilot with Carcafe, the Colombian coffee division of one of the world’s oldest and largest agricultural commodity traders Volcafe/ED&F Man. Carcafe has identified a distinct high value ‘cupping’ profile and Demetria has built a matchmaking solution to determine which green beans will suit.
“Carcafe worked with Demetria to develop a pilot application that allows anyone, anywhere, with a portable sensor, to detect a specific and high value sensory (”taste”) profile of green coffee,” said Sebastian Pinzón, General Manager at Carcafe. “We are in the process of adopting and rolling out this groundbreaking technology to greatly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our prospecting process at our purchase points and in the field. Demetria replaces many manual processes to determine vital data that’s previously been unavailable in the industry and is proving invaluable.”