Let’s Go Bananas

Throughout the whole first week, we mainly focused on the supply chain of coffee. Today, we got to learn the supply chain of bananas. Both are similar in that they both are complicated, but at different steps of the supply chain. For coffee, sourcing the coffee cherries into coffee beans is very long process: each cherry must be picked by hand when ready. For bananas, planning step in the supply chain is very long and intricate. The bananas must be cloned to make the process of managing the herbs easier. It’s important to plan how to properly clone and how to accurately take care of the possible problems that might arise with these bananas.

If I was a plantation worker, I would probably prefer to work on a banana plantation. One of the reasons is because it seems a lot less labor intensive to work on a banana plantation versus a coffee plantation. For working on a coffee plantation, you could work all day and not even earn enough to buy lunch. Plantation workers on a coffee farm are paid by the number of baskets picked, but if there aren’t even ripe coffee cherries to be picked, then you are out of luck for that day. It seems like the process for picking bananas is more efficient than picking coffee cherries, and as an engineer, efficiency is key to what I want to do. I also feel like the bananas industry is far less risky than the coffee industry in Costa Rica, because the weather conditions can be so unpredictable and harmful. Coffee is only really picked during one season out of the year, while bananas can be picked all year.

It has come to my attention the importance of sustainability in Costa Rica. This has been apparent in the coffee farms we have visited so far and was also apparent today, when we visited Dole: a fruit company that grows and exports fruits. The portion we focused on today during our tour, was their production and exportation of bananas. Dole, like other companies in Costa Rica, care about protecting the environment, its workers, and the community that surrounds their company. They strictly follow the protocols listed under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). For example, before we could even get into the plantations, our tour guide made us wash our shoes and step into an ionized solution to clean the soles of our shoes to make sure we didn’t bring in any unwanted germs to the farm. He also asked us about our whereabouts the past six months to ensure that we didn’t travel to a country that may have some sort of disease that could have harmed their fruits. He emphasized the importance of following these procedures for the safety of their plantations and for the community around them, that may have been affected by the methods used.

Another way to protect the community’s well-being is to protect the environment. Banana plantations constantly must face the problem of pests harming their fruit and destroying their inventory. They also must face the problem of bruising caused by the movements resulting from wind speeds. So, one way that Dole tries to protect their fruits and the environment is, by using pheromones instead of pesticides to control pests. Pesticides can harm the environment by polluting it with toxic chemicals and substances. It then can harm humans because it is found in the air that we breather. Pheromones act as a better and more sustainable solution to the pest problems. To mitigate the bruising problem, banana plantations are using plastic bags to limit the movements and bruising caused by the wind. Even though this solution is not the most sustainable, it’s the only one that works properly enough to keep their fruits from being destroy. Dole has investigated other methods, none of which work properly in the various weather conditions their plantations face. So, Dole decided to stick with the plastic bags method for now but will continue to do research to find a more sustainable option, if possible.

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