Better coffee, in every way
Aware of the interest of working on its environmental impact both for the planet and to improve business performance, Finca Mountain Villa Rica, a coffee SME, benefited from a UNEP / SETAC Life Cycle Initiative’s programme, designed to help SMEs implement a life cycle approach. The company improved its products’ quality and yields, while reducing its costs and environmental impact.
Finca Mountain Villa Rica is a family company that has been cultivating, producing and exporting Peruvian coffee for more than three generations. Its vision is to expand the sales force nationally and internationally, providing a specialty coffee for global markets. Company farms are located in the Valley of Villa Rica (Peru), a region that is characterized by its mountainous terrain, ideal heights and microclimate and excellent soil.
A global market
The company operations include agricultural production of coffee cherry, wet and dry processing, roasting and packaging. The company subcontracts the milling process.
Approximately half the production is sold as dry parchment coffee to a partner company, Cafetalera Amazonica S.A.C. that removes the parchment layer and exports green coffee to roasters, such as Nestlé, Kraft, Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee and Tchibo. The remaining half is packaged roasted coffee sold under the company’s brand to national supermarket chains, such as Wong and Metro.
Sales representatives have been established in Chile, Russia and Australia to develop export markets for the branded coffee.
The Peruvian Agency for the Defense of Competition and Protection of Intellectual Property (INDECOPI) awarded Finca Mountain Villa Rica a designation of origin certificate, which identifies products with special characteristics due to the production area and processing procedures. The company also has a Rainforest Alliance certification recognizing their efforts to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by fulfilling the standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network.
Reduced water and coffee pulp waste
The company has its own water source, allowing the self-generation of electricity thanks to hydropower (50 kW). Although the company has implemented a recirculation system to reduce water consumption, it was seeking to redesign production processes to further optimize water use. The identified improvement project was focused on post-harvest wet and dry processing steps, with an objective to reduce the amount of water waste generated, and to identify a better way to manage coffee pulp waste. A farm-to-gate process flow chart was developed to quantify current inputs and outputs. This provided a baseline for evaluating various eco-efficiency improvement concepts. The key environmental impacts were identified as the high concentration of fertilizers during the cultivation of the coffee plants, and water waste and coffee pulp from the wet processing of harvested coffee cherries.
A second phase of the pilot project was to evaluate alternative eco-efficiency concepts that could help achieve the targeted improvements. Improvement concepts evaluated included waterless transport of coffee cherries and pulp, simplification of the washing and drying process, a mucilage removal alternative to fermentation, anaerobic digestion of coffee pulp waste, and more efficient micro organisms to speed composting of pulp.
A drip irrigation / fertilization (“fertigation”) system was also evaluated that not only reduced water and fertilizer use but promised higher yields of green coffee. The factory owner participated in drip irrigation fertilization system training in Brazil. The “fertigation” system was tested on a 1 ha plot, producing yields 30 to 40 % higher with improved quality of the green and roasted coffee.
Yields were increased up to 30 to 40%, while improving green and roasted coffee quality.
Alternative centrifuge technologies were evaluated to reduce water consumption during wet processing of the coffee cherries. The centrifuge saved additional water by propelling the beans through transfer pipes, avoiding the use of water for transport. The reduced moisture content of the process beans saved 2 to 3 days of pre-drying by sun, a natural process used to reduce energy costs of drying but imposing a bottleneck in the current system.
Additional evaluations were conducted to ensure no damage to the beans caused by the centrifugal transport. Based on the preliminary study and the evaluation of the various concepts, Finca Mountain Villa Rica developed an improvement plan with short, medium and long term recommendations.
Strengths included a strong management commitment to sustainable practices, which were directly linked to the company’s branding strategy and value proposition to customers seeking specialty coffees. Previous efforts to earn the Designation of Origin and rainforest Alliance certifications had raised organizational awareness of its environmental impacts and developed a baseline of performance information.
Although the company felt that communications with stakeholders were good, there was a need for more formal key performance indicators. It was also recognized that more formal systems were necessary to comply with international standards, certifications, and labelling initiatives to support their export strategy.
Finally, the company had implemented several improvement projects, but there was not a culture of continual improvement. Initial understanding of their environmental impacts was used to implement end-of-pipe controls, and the company could then move to the next level and address continual process improvement.
With the support of the European Commission
Last update: May 2016