Through years of research and collecting data from every coffee producer in Costa Rica, the Institute of Café (ICAFE) has been able to accumulate a large knowledge base about coffee while developing useful technologies. One interesting development has been their ability to analyze both the soil and the green coffee beans. For the soil, they are able to determine its chemical composition in order to decide which type of fertilizer would be best for a particular farm. As for the beans, they can tell which country the beans were grown in to ensure that coffee producers and roasters are honest about the source of their beans. The greatest innovation at ICAFE was the new biotechnology lab, which researches the natural resistance some plants have to disease or pests and works to replicate this in others. By using genetic engineering in this way, ICAFE could help to reduce the use of pesticides and fungicides which would then reduce the risk of polluting the environment with their use.
Because of ICAFE’s vast abilities to analyze coffee and soil samples, they can be very helpful for coffee farmers who have difficulty with a particular aspect of coffee growing. For example, upon receiving a sample of a coffee plant infected by a fungus, ICAFE can analyze it to determine which fungus is creating the issue and either give the grower a chemical or good fungus to kill the disease or inform the grower on how to combat it themselves. Another big reason ICAFE is helpful to coffee farmers is their soil testing capabilities. By telling the growers exactly what fertilizer to use in order to get the nutrients their soils need, ICAFE is helping growers maximize their production while also making sure that excess chemicals don’t leech into the surrounding water.
Although ICAFE draws its information from an ever-growing knowledge base, there are certainly still growers who would refuse their recommendations on improving their methods. For the most part, this practice would be common for larger companies because they often have research teams of their own along with tried and true practices they have used. For example, Doka Estate has its own research and development team working to develop new strains of coffee with special properties such as pest resistance and to ensure maximum production. Therefore, they may disregard ICAFE’s recommendations on how to deal with pests or which fertilizers to use since they are performing similar tests in their own labs.