Digital traceability: Know the history of your coffee bean from birth to boiling water

Do you know where your coffee bean is from? How do you know that your Robusta is what it says it is? How can you trust what the brand says about its coffee?
Image used for representational purposes
Image used for representational purposes

Reyansh Chaturvedi, a techie in Bengaluru, spends seven minutes grocery shopping, and 20 minutes choosing his jitter juice at the store’s specialty coffee section. Before buying, he first checks the packaging. Then he pulls out his smartphone and scans the QR code on the packet to learn if the Arabica bean he loves did indeed come from Barbara Estate in Chikmagalur, Karnataka, as it claims. Coffee digital traceability is a must for millennial addicts of liquid energy—coffee with credibility.

Coffee digital traceability involves a lot of questions. Do you know where your coffee bean is from? How do you know that your Robusta is what it says it is? How can you trust what the brand says about its coffee? Digital traceability of coffee helps customers get right under the skin of the bean, say Anil Nadig and Srivatsa Sreenivasarao, co-founders of the Bengaluru-based TraceX Technologies, a blockchain tech company that promises to outlay the entire ‘bean to cup’ odyssey. All buyers have to do is scan the barcode on any coffee packet, which will take them right to a web page with a product summary, geographical location of the coffee estate, quality data, information on production, procurement and processing, and dispatch. It also sends links to videos and photographs. 

There is also hot news brewing that the current session of Parliament will take up the repeal of the Coffee Act of 1942. For the last 80 years, coffee production and distribution in India have been under the purview of an outdated Colonial law. The draft Coffee (Promotion and Development) Bill, 2022 is expected to position India as one of the world’s top coffee-producing and exporting countries. Nadig says, while the Bill could open up the market, quality control is crucial.

“Coffee is a premium product and Indians are pulling out all the stops to lay their hands on new speciality coffees. They want to know where their coffee is grown, the altitude, location, drying duration, how it was roasted, processes it underwent, whether it was ethically sourced, fair-trade coffee from a farmer’s collective without involving child labour and the distance and time spent in transit,” he adds. In simple terms, this technology helps you understand the boxes the coffee bean has ticked before it arrives in your cup. A report published by Markets and Markets in March 2022 indicates that the food traceability market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.1 per cent with its estimated value reaching $26.1 bn by 2025.

Srivatsa says when global markets opened up over the last five years,  causing a coffee export wave, technology became necessary to ensure transparency. In May 2022, the firm started dealing with 3,500 coffee farmers in Araku Valley near Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. They roped in Technoserve, an NGO working on improving the crop value chain. 

TraceX staff through Technoserve personnel send instructions to the farmer’s cellphone in the local language. The platform also sends SMS alerts on actionable points in eight Indian languages, which go to TechnoServe’s crop advisors and field officers simultaneously. It partners with premium Indian coffee brands to track every stage of the process, the cost of which could go up by 13 per cent if brands decide to pass these expenses to the consumer. Some companies, however, don’t resort to this as they believe it’s part of their transparency ethic. Knowledge is power. And your brew may taste better knowing where it came from. 

Why blockchain traceability?
✥ The data collected acts as a single source of truth.
✥ It captures real-time data, right from the sourcing of raw materials to input usage and sustainable practices. 
✥ The post-harvest module captures and streamlines the production processes, inventory and batch management, and boosts operational efficiency.
✥ Understanding the data generated to help 
reduce losses due to wastage in the supply chain and provide better insights for stakeholders to make informed decisions. 

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