Is Coffee Tech the Next Big Thing?

The Universidad de Veritas is one of the only universities in Costa Rica specialized in art and technology. It is working hard to teach its local and international students to use the rapidly devolving technologies and programs of today. This technology revolution is changing how the world works, and consequently altering how people do business. Individuals and small business now have access to innovative technologies like automation, drones, and specialized printers that can be used for day to day work. There is a possibility technology like this could be applied to the production, distribution, and consumption of coffee to increase efficiency and sales in the coffee industry.

The production of coffee is traditionally very low-tech. The coffee beans are grown in plantations, picked by hand, deshelled and fermented by large old machines, dried in the sun, stored in large bags for a while, then roasted in the oven. But, I believe newer technologies can be added to improve the process. Drones could be used to monitor the coffee trees on plantations. They can look for pests and fungus on the plants, check to see how well the beans are growing, and search for the ripe berries when it comes time to pick. Possibly, the drones might even be used to distribute the perfect amount of Pesticides—according to Doka this is the biggest money suck and one of the most important steps in taking care of the plants. Automation and better machines (conveyer belts, etc.) could help optimize sorting of the beans for the best quality and speed up the packaging process. It might also decrease costs because it will decrease the need for human labor.

However, many parts of the coffee process may not be improve by technology. There are many instances in which the traditional coffee production methods create much better quality and flavor. For example, coffee tastes much better when it is dried in the sun compared to when machines dry the beans. Another example is that coffee must be hand-picked because it doesn’t all ripen at the same time. Human eyes sometimes know best (unless of course someone comes up with a crazy technology that will only pick the ripened beans).

Innovation could also help the distribution process. Coffee is an agricultural good and it is possible it can go bad (not as quickly as some others but still). Special packing machines or technologies to help pack and unpack trucks and ships would be very beneficial to increase the speed and efficiency of the supply chain. It might also allow larger exports which means more money. Also, special technologies that monitor the coffee beans’ location and environment (temperature, humidity, etc.) would be beneficial in order to maintain quality and make sure nothing goes wrong. Specialized printers and devices could make awesome storage bags and boxes for the beans and hopefully the devices would be able to use recycled materials (paper and plastics).

Technology, mixed with the Internet Revolution, has also radically changed the marketing word for coffee. Many small plantations and roasters are now able to get word of their products out to people and places that they previously couldn’t. They can bring in more tourists. They can develop eye-catching logos, packaging, and websites without investing excessive amounts of money. Also, companies can use 3D printers and laser cutters to print special logos into their tables, chairs, or wall art (like we saw at Veritas). It can really do wonders for the ambiance and create perfect opportunities for Instagram pics which is an awesome marketing strategy (just look at Starbucks if you don’t believe me).

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