ICAFE: The Capital of Coffee R&D

Option 1 –

One of the two companies we visited today is named ICAFE and its work revolves around the research and development of coffee plants including prevention of diseases, increased plant growth, and quality improvement. When touring the facilities, there were a few advanced technologies which stuck out to me as interesting and important for their desired research. One of these technological instruments was one which measured the pH level of certain soil samples in order to determine whether or not the soil is sufficiently acidic to support the growth of coffee. If the samples are not above around 5.5 pH then the soil is not adequate for planting coffee. Another piece of technology used by ICAFE tests certain quantities of green coffee beans to see where the coffee originated from. It is important to know the origin of coffee in order to determine its authenticity. Finally, the technology behind the cross pollination research allows farmers to produce coffee plants with higher quality and higher efficiency by breeding special plants which only need to be planted once rather than twice. This research can lead to more overall production and can save a large amount of land.

As we learned today, a very large percentage of coffee farmers in Costa Rica are considered “small,” or around 8 or so hectares. With that being said, many plantations do not have the available time or resources to do research on the coffee their growing and in particular what diseases are plaguing their crops. The most common threat to coffee plants are different forms of fungi which ruin the crops and are many times hard to predict. The small coffee farms need the help of ICAFE to do the necessary research and provide them with the solution to these diseases. One solution which is provided by ICAFE is a “good” fungus which fights against the negative fungi that are typically found on coffee plants. As beneficial ICAFE can be for coffee farmers, they do charge the plantations around 1.5% of their profits in order to fund their research. While this may be worth it to a large number of small coffee farms, this is not the case for everyone. Large and successful coffee farms may not desire the help of ICAFE because it is simply not worth the price to them. If the large coffee farms have enough revenue, they may in fact invest in their own research in order to cut out the unnecessary cost from ICAFE.

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