Investing in the Future of Specialty Coffee
An announcement on Acopio

When Ariel and I started Acopio, the goal was simple: strengthen the livelihoods of coffee producers through the use of technology. Coffee farmers face plenty of challenges from knowing how to care for their coffee trees to figuring out how to get their coffee into a market that pays a premium for sustainable practices. We took on one challenge in particular: inefficiency in coffee cooperative management. Inefficient, paper-based management practices at origin not only increase production costs but leave producers facing tough choices without the knowledge or support of their partners up the value chain.

AcopioPlus, our information management platform, has helped more than 2,000 producers in four countries manage their data in an efficient manner from the moment the farmer turns in their coffee to the cooperative to the moment the product is put in a container for export. And all along the way, cooperative management has the data they need to figure out how the harvest is progressing, understand quality across the growing region, evaluate price risk, and determine where best to apply technical resources in the field. At the same time, AcopioPlus makes it easy to export and share data to buyers, financiers, and certifiers operating upstream.

When we started Acopio we knew the challenges associated with starting a social enterprise targeting rural, disconnected farmers. We knew that to succeed we needed to build a quality product and collaborate with partners interested in investing in the future of the coffee industry. We’ve been honored to partner with organizations willing to take a chance on investing in innovation that not only offers producers an advantage in a competitive marketplace but also helps upstream actors better understand the realities of the farmers working at origin. Today Ariel and I are proud to announce that one of our valued partners, Fair Trade USA, is making a significant investment in the future of fair trade coffee by taking ownership of AcopioPlus and committing to continued improvement of the platform.

The team at Fair Trade USA has decades of experience working with producers to improve market access, reward sustainable practices, and develop new approaches to difficult problems at origin. And they understand the power that data can bring to the battle they’re fighting to help producers earn a fair wage. Data on farm gate prices, production costs, quantity and quality, and certification will help Fair Trade USA evaluate the needs of the 1.2 million Fair Trade Certified producers around the world. The fight for fair wages is no less important than it was 15 years ago and it is no easier today thanks to climate change and the low price of coffee on international markets.

Over the last two years we’ve spent countless hours with the Fair Trade USA team and we couldn’t be happier with their decision to carry forward the initiative that we started three years ago. Today we are more convinced than ever that technology will continue to spread, helping farmers around the world gain agency and become more resilient. This is just the beginning.

As we transition the management of Acopio to Fair Trade USA, keep an eye out for announcements from Bennett Wetch and Ben Corey-Moran on their vision for carrying the platform forward. And in the meantime, to all of our supporters, we thank you for believing in our vision and helping us along the way.

Young coffee plants in a nursery in Chiapas, Mexico.


Dispatch from Let's Talk Coffee 2013
Notes from Sustainable Harvest's annual event

I just got back from El Salvador, where I represented Acopio at Sustainable Harvest’s Let’s Talk Coffee event. From start to finish the event was a powerful reminder of the need for continued collaboration across the coffee supply chain. Two key themes - low coffee prices and the roya crisis - highlighted the need for innovation and multi-stakeholder solutions that reinforce the resiliency of small holder producers. The event took a rather sober tone at times in light of the seriousness of those two themes, but as always it was a pleasure to speak with so many inspiring coffee industry actors from across the value chain.
A few highlights:

  • I was proud to share the stage with Jenais Zarlin (access.mobile) and Chris Reichart (iFormBuilder) on the traceability panel, where we talked about the many opportunities for using traceability data, from pure traceability to quality control, cost reduction, and more. My presentation is available on Slideshare - Acopio Traceability.
  • The commodity market coffee price is in a downward spiral and roya is threatening the supply of many smallholders; many discussions centered on the need for excellent farm management and the sustained improvement of premiums for quality and various certification mechanisms.
  • Roasters and retailers are committed to sustainability, though everyone has a different definition of sustainability. Hearing from the folks behind the SCAA START program and the Stanford d.school’s coffee initiative helped focus the conversation on tools that attempting to make headway in various areas.
  • Finally, we launched The Coffee Pages, a service that aims to help producers increase their presence on the Internet. See our recent blog post for more information on the initiative.


LTC2013

Ben Corey-Moran of Fair Trade USA discussing their pricing policy.

LTC2013

The Stanford d.school coffee team presenting on innovation in coffee fermentation and drying.

LTC2013

Paul of Acopio with Ervin Calixto Miranda of COOMPROCOM.

Thanks to Sustainable Harvest for the invitation - we’re looking forward to continuing the many conversations we started at the event.


Introducing The Coffee Pages
Launching a directory of the world's best coffee producers

Today we’re proud to launch The Coffee Pages, a directory representing some of the finest coffee producers in the world. All coffee producers are welcome to join the platform and can use it to build a presence on the Internet while connecting with other producers, buyers, certifiers, lenders, and the public.

The Coffee Pages homepage

In our years of working at origin with farmers, producer groups have often told us that there are few cost-effective ways to create an online presence. While helping launch a website for COOMPROCOM, a cooperative we work with in Nicaragua, we began thinking that there must be a better way to help producers share their story with the world. Producers are often underrepresented on the Internet and all too often the names and faces of producers are also absent from the aisles of the shops where we buy their products.

At Acopio we would like to change that and today we’re starting with a simple platform that helps producer groups establish their own corner of the Internet. Producer groups (or friends of producer groups) can submit their basic information for inclusion on the site. We’ll reach out to the producer to verify the information and then publish the page on the site. We’ll add the producer to the map on the homepage and we’ll publish the producers’ contact information in the event that visitors to The Coffee Pages want to reach out to the producer directly. There is no charge for this service.

In the future, we’d like to include even more features: multimedia, full producer control over producer profiles, the ability to submit a “sighting” of a producers’ coffee in the market, realtime updates and interaction with producers, cupping scores and notes from producers, and methods for helping buyers and lenders connect with producers that match their criteria. If you have a suggestion for a feature, we’d love to hear from you.

What does the Acopio User badge mean?

AcopioPlus User Badge

A number of producer groups on the site today feature the “Acopio User” badge on their profile pages. This badge indicates that the producer group is working with Acopio to increase their operational efficiency, work in a transparent manner with their members and partners, and deliver a highly traceable product. As we grow The Coffee Pages, we’ll work with AcopioPlus users to incorporate data from the field.

If you would like to get involved in making The Coffee Pages even better, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us!