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Innov8's device boosts farmers income from coffee sales by delivering better coffee processing technology to improve their coffee quality.

Innov8's device allows Ethiopian farmers to wet process coffee beans to the highest quality and thereby extract the maximum value from sales

Photo of Olakusibe Famuyibo
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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Innov8 Coffee is a social enterprise with a mission to empower smallholder coffee farmers through innovative and affordable agricultural technology. The company aims to increase income yield from modern coffee processing methods and reduce poverty of coffee farmers in Africa. In Ethiopia, it has been estimated that more than 90 percent of the coffee farmers are smallholder farmers and improved primary processing at farm level should be introduced as part of good agricultural practices. However, coffee processing technology has remained stagnant causing inconsistency in quality. Inadequate funding to promote ownership, poor communication infrastructure and distance to the processing facilities have created a gap in the market. As a result, coffee farmers suffer from income loss and low yield. For the beans to reach export quality, we have identified that the fermentation process plays a crucial role in the quality where the environment must be controlled and optimised. Our team has developed a user friendly, affordable and innovative device to help farmers manage their fermentation process and could potentially determine the coffee profile for each different market. Our device monitors and detect the chemical compositions during the fermenting of coffee beans. Thereafter, these information will be sent through to SMS devices providing farmers with important information to make smart decisions.

WHO BENEFITS?

Smallholder farmers will benefit through increased earnings by adopting wet processing of coffee beans. We have estimated that the adoption of wet processing and our device will yield an additional of US$0.30 - US$0.50 per kilogram of coffee beans. This added value to the farmers will have a diverse effect and also bring new opportunities to generations of farming communities. We also aim to support government and authorities’ initiatives to increase the adoption of wet processing.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

Ethiopia where we will be conducting our testing in late 2016. We are also exploring the opportunities to implement in Uganda. We are eager to collaborate and work with social entrepreneur and NGOs to achieve our vision.

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

Innov8 Coffee is a registered social enterprise headquartered in London. We work with coffee farmers to improve their agricultural practises and improve their harvest. We are looking for passionate individuals to join our cause.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

Innov8 Coffee and our coffee monitoring device is entirely new application to the industry. We think of coffee processing and fermentation in a way that is similar to wine and beer fermentation. Our team attended the international coffee conference earlier this year and have gathered very good feedback from industry experts.We have already created a working prototype and pilot testing will be conducted in line with the coffee season this year. We are happy to explore collaborations with OpenIDEO community to conduct our pilot testing in Ethiopia. Please get in touch at ofamuyibo@iinnov8.org

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

Our social enterprise initiative is original as we are the first to adopt the use of technological solutions to tackle the inefficiency in coffee farming, while other initiatives focus mostly on popularising primary agricultural techniques in developing countries. The unique selling point of our enterprise is captured in the approach we take to help local Ethiopian farmers. To develop closer relationships with the rural farming community, we are empowering the Ethiopian cooperatives with new technology to help them diffuse better agricultural practices to farmers in remote areas. This opens up the line of communication for us and brings to focus clearer partnership opportunities with the Cooperative Unions. Given the nature of our project, the scalability in product expansion allows our social enterprise to further our impact in the agricultural sector. Our device combines innovation and strategy to make a real difference in the coffee industry. We come from a diverse education and working background who lived and worked in different parts of the world. The innovation team is currently based in London which is a thriving city for technological innovation.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

Our founding team consists of members from a diverse background and have worked in various fields, ranging from engineering, consulting and finance. In addition to the support from PhD and Masters students at Imperial College London, the team has been able to adopt scientific applications with practical business solutions. In addition, the team has established the support from McKinsey and Company, and TechnoServe.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

Our team has made a few market study trips to Ethiopia to understand the coffee processing practises in various plantations. We have also consulted Technoserve on different practises that was observed through their work with the farmers. Additionally, our co-founders have attended the international coffee conference in Ethiopia to understand the potential of our invention could have on the industry. Based on the feedbacks we gathered over the last few months, we have been working on our prototype to improve on its ability to detect and to map what happens during fermentation. We have also identified additional fields of sensors and control parameters needed to provide timely and accurate information for the coffee farmers. We have also included SMS alert function to notify the farmers instead of the on-screen display which was part of our previous product design. Time is a crucial factor in fermentation. We believe the addition function will increase the farm’s productivity.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

We are actively seeking more partners and investment to bring our innovation to further our impact and reach out to more coffee farmers. As such, we have been trying to figure out the best way to identify other potential partnership in Africa? What is the best method to further our reach in a targeted country besides on the ground training?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

There are a number of reasons why this issue hasn't been solved yet. Firstly, the few wet processing mills across Ethiopia typically exist in large cooperatives, private or government institutions, because of the significant capital outlay required by these institutions at the start. As such, there aren't a lot of players left to innovate on existing processes. Secondly, the coffee season only happens a few months in a year. As such, these institutions would rarely risk forfeiting profits on coffee sales in order to run experimental projects on improving the fermentation process. Thirdly, few processing facilities have the intellectual resource to conduct fruitful tests on fermentation.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

Our dream for Innov8 is to help transform Ethiopia's coffee industry into a specialty grade market whereby the small holder farmers are the SMEs which sit directly behind driving coffee quality. This will shift the power dynamic from the coffee consumers in the west, to the small holder farmers in the origin market, thereby allowing these farmers to win back more value from the supply chain. The value these farmers capture will invariably go back to improving their local communities.

MEMBERS OF MY TEAM HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER FOR:

  • More than a year

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • More than 500 km from where our team does most of its work

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Under $100,000

Innov8 Coffee is a social enterprise with a mission to empower coffee farmers through innovative and affordable agricultural technology. The company aims to increase income yield from modern coffee processing methods and reduce poverty of coffee farmers in Africa. The project focuses on coffee quality improvement that targets small to medium scale farmers in Africa. We are the first knowledge and technology product company to empower farmers with the ability to monitor coffee processing, improve output, and achieve a better yield.

As the winner of the 2015 Mckinsey Venture Academy, Mckinsey & Company and Technoserve have been supporting our cause to implement this project in Africa. Since the last coffee season, our team has made two independent market assessment studies in Ethiopia - the biggest producer and exporter in Africa - to establish a market and develop the right partnerships within the country.

8 comments

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Olakusibe!

The Amplify team and our experts have some questions/feedback for you:

Do you have any formal partnerships to implement this? What need does this technology most address? How do you know if it fits the needs of the farmers?

I'm wondering what some of the answers and questions you had before you introduced a few to wet processing? Not just about the process and tech, but also what the farmers' goals were.

Why do you think hasn't this process been adopted by small scale farmers in Ethiopia?

One path I think it would be great to explore is to see what Starbucks did to help their farmers get up to scale with their demands. Besides buying beans, Starbucks also helped increase yields. While it's probably confidential, it might be interesting if it was just training or if it was tech that they used.

I'm glad you've submitted - and see some new thinking in terms of how the device would interact with users. I think it's worth considering a couple different user types (small farmers, large estate farmers, wet mill businesses, etc) and the type of information / communication mechanism that is most appropriate for them. (All of them will, of course, want to know when the coffee is done fermenting, which is the important thing, but SMS may not be the only way to reach them...)

Looking forward to learning more! 

Photo of Olakusibe Famuyibo
Team

1. Our formal partnership with the CMS Cameron McKenna LLP) supports us from a legal point of view, how best to operate in our end markets. We are also firming up our partnerships with Café Africa to assist with disseminating our technology to smallholder farmers in new markets. Informal relationships include Technoserve, whom have supported us with our market feasibility visit to Ethiopia and provided much needed guidance to the coffee landscape, and McKinsey and Company, having supported us with capital and our strategy in approaching this venture.
Our technology addresses the need for coffee farmers to increase their income and realise all the value from the sales of their processed coffee beans. For small holder farmers selling coffee beans processed via the dry method, they lose a significant amount of value because the quality of their processed beans is under the markets perception of high grade. Processing beans via the wet method would give these farmers better quality coffee to sell, however they do not have the technology to ensure high grade quality beans are produced if they use the wet method. This challenge has discouraged small holder farmers from processing beans themselves – instead they resort to either transporting beans to large processing facilities for a sum, or simply growing other crops that may sometimes be detrimental to the local community (in Ethiopia for example, smallholder farmers have been known to grow the local narcotic ‘Khat’ and sell in an underground economy) We are confident our technology fits the needs of the farmers as it is designed to be affordable and robust. From an affordability standpoint, we are aware smallholder farmers don’t have the resources for capital expenditure and have decided to explore the possibility of subscription or leasing schemes with communities of farmers; similar to what Technoserve set up in Ethiopia with loan structures between wet mills and the Oromia International Bank.
2. Questions on our venture so far include;
What is the capacity of your device?
We are developing 3 versions to support use cases that mirror the production levels of each group; the smallest version to support a close community of less than 7 farmers, the second version for a community of 15 farmers, and a third version to support large processing facilities (wet mills)
What groups stand to benefit from our device?
In our technology’s life cycle, the innovator and adopter groups, who would most likely be involved in one of three things at the moment (dry processing, selling raw beans to large processing plants, or growing Khat) will gain more visibility of the market price for high quality coffee beans. For those smallholder farmers selling raw beans to large processing plants, they would be able to demand a higher price from the processing plants with better knowledge of what these beans go for when wet processed. Both groups stand to achieve their income goals.
3. The two main reasons why this process hasn’t been adopted by small scale farmers is due to lack of access to adequate wet processing facilities and lack of training to up-skill these farmers from dry to wet processing methodology. Our technology takes away the need for much of the manual intervention required of traditional wet processing facilities, while still producing high quality coffee beans.
4. Indeed, Starbucks initiatives around upskilling small holder farmers in Rwanda and Costa Rica with better agronomy practices through their Farmer Support Centres, is inspiring, but unlike Starbucks however, we are placing more of an emphasis on the technology aspect of our proposition because we realise that when it comes to diffusing best practice for a process across a market, the best way to guarantee consistency is by ensuring everyone has access to a baseline level of functionality. This is a learning we have taken from the likes of Café Africa, whom in the past have run workshops to upskill small holder farming communities on wet processing but have been severely limited by their reach and thereby impact.
5. We are implementing SMS controller functionality as a familiar way for the farmers to interact with our device; for instance having our device send a text notification to alert when the water needs to be re-filled mid fermentation, or an alert when the fermentation process is complete. At the moment, SMS technology works for our target market given the maturity of the Telco infrastructure; for instance, WiFi would be quite difficult to establish and maintain in remote regions in Ethiopia. Other ways for the device to communicate to the farmers are being considered; for instance having our device sound alarms of different pitches depending on the notification type, or instead flashing colour coded notification for the same reasons. The feasibility of these options are bound to crystallise in the research trip our team has planned for October later this year.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Awesome, so helpful to read these answers! Can you tell us about the time you anticipate the members of this team are/will be able to contribute to implementing this idea? 

Photo of Olakusibe Famuyibo
Team

Currently, we are very fortunate that our team members pour in the resources they get from work and study into our enterprise; these resources have included access to world-class lab facilities and equipment on university campus grounds, personal connections from work networks to provide startup advice from legal to strategy matters (our lawyers being one of these), and even financial contributions towards things such as building our company website: www.iinnov8.org. We are simply working towards the first capital raising opportunity that will allow us take our venture into the next level' at which point we can mobilise ourselves on the ground to kick off operations.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Great to hear about how dedicated your team is! Thanks for the details, Olakusibe.

Photo of Elly Nelson
Team

Your idea is very good and should be implemented as soon as possible. Great effort Olakusibe.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Olakusibe!

I notice you haven't filled in the answers to the new phase questions yet. Friendly reminder to do so before the phase ends next week. Remember that the 'full description' field won't be visible to any of your readers.

Cheers!

Chioma

Photo of Olakusibe Famuyibo
Team

Hi Chioma, 

Thank you for the reminder. It has been a really busy week for us. We have now uploaded the questions and user roadmap. 

Cheers, 
Ola