The democratization of technology has made a lot of new technologies available to companies, including companies involved in the coffee industry. Since my topic for this trip is sourcing, I will focus mainly on how technology can improve the production of coffee. The innovations in coffee may seem primitive, but they can have a large effect on the sustainability and quality of the product.
An example of a technology to improve the production of coffee is the technique of shade grown coffee. Shade grown coffee is a technique where coffee is grown under the forest canopy in a more natural state, alongside larger trees that provide shade for the coffee plants. This means that far less land needs to be cleared in order to grow coffee, making it much more sustainable for the rainforest. The forest environment of shade grown coffee provides a habitat for animals such as birds and monkeys. Another advantage of shade grown coffee, is that it prevents fungus, known as coffee rust, from growing on the coffee plants. Fungus is less likely to grow on shade grown coffee plants because the shade trees absorb a lot of the humidity in the air. This provides a worse environment for the fungus to grow in and it eliminates that need for the use of antifungal chemicals that harm the environment. Lastly, shade grown coffee reduces the amount of damage insects to do the coffee plants. The shade trees provide more targets for insects, as well as homes for the predators of insects, such as birds. Overall, this reduces the effects pests have on the coffee plants, reducing the need for harmful pesticides. In conclusion, shade grown coffee is a much more sustainable way to grow coffee as compared with typical cleared plantations.
Despite the advantages of using new technology or methods, sometimes the old fashion way produces the best end product, or is the most sustainable method. An example of this is sun drying coffee after the wet milling process. While technology exists, and is in use, to dry coffee in large bins under high heat, a significant amount of flavor is lost in this process. Companies use these heated bins in order to speed up the drying process. Sun drying is much slower, however a lot less of the oils and flavors are lost when the coffee is slowly heated under the sun. In addition, it requires no electricity or any materials required to create heat. Sun drying is an old technique, but the best way to dry coffee. Another example of when the old fashion way is the best way is the process of handpicking coffee. Hand picking can be slow and requires a lot of labor, but it allows pickers to select only the ripe coffee fruit, leaving unripe fruit to continue to ripen on the tree. Machine picking simply removes all of the fruits, meaning coffee producers are forced to either use or throw away the ripened or low quality fruits. Machine picking can also do more damage to the trees themselves. Overall, quality coffee should always be handpicked to ensure only ripe fruits are selected and far less is wasted. In my opinion, the coffee production processed has been refined so much over a long history that there is little room for technology to influence the process. Doing things slowly and by hand typically produces the best end product, which I feel is the most important thing. There is a lot of research and development into improving different coffee plants, but overall I do not think technology will impact the coffee production industry as much as it has to other industries.