How Volcafe is improving farm practices, increasing productivity, and delivering higher quality
Since 1802, ED&F Man’s coffee business, Volcafe, has been trading coffee. Today, Volcafe provides beans for 50 billion cups each year and is the third-largest coffee distributor in the world. It’s likely that you’ve never heard of them because they operate behind the scenes providing the unroasted coffee beans to retail coffee companies like Starbucks and Peets that you know and love.
What many may not know is the grueling process that takes place behind each cup of coffee. Coffee production is an increasingly difficult business that’s rife with complications. On top of urbanization, financial turmoil, and global warming, coffee farmers struggle to keep their farms afloat. Many are second- and third-generation farmers who operate their farms as inheritances rather than businesses. They lack business skills and resources and need a substantial amount of support beyond improving their supply chain. To truly ensure their success, Volcafe jumped into action and created “The Volcafe Way.”
Volcafe Way is a sustainable sourcing strategy created to radically transform coffee production. They work directly with coffee farmers to assist and train them in sustainable production techniques and good agronomy practices, focusing on making the best use of their land for future generations. Volcafe Way offers unprecedented farmer support by training them through local learning hubs and bringing together communities to exchange best practices for managing risks, improving outcomes, gathering data, and measuring results—whether they work directly with Volcafe or not.
Operating in over 15 countries and working with more than 20,000 coffee producers and communities, how does Volcafe manage such an expansive organization? How do they coordinate globally distributed teams of field technicians, agronomists, managers, and country/regional-level executives to ensure that farming families in remote parts of the world are getting the support that they need? How do they ensure that valuable agricultural data from these farms is collected in a standardized format and can be translated into actionable best practices for farmers to increase their productivity in a sustainable fashion when many of the communities struggle with higher-than-average levels of illiteracy and various degrees of social disenfranchisement?
Operationally, Volcafe needed a robust technology solution customized to their unique needs. Tracking and reporting on global farm productivity wouldn’t work with paper forms, Excel spreadsheets, and emails. After building their first application using TrackVia, Volcafe quickly created a custom data collection workflow for Android & iOS apps, giving remote farmers the ability to capture data and complete workflows without an internet connection.
Now, based on the data collected and the efficiencies they’ve implemented, Volcafe has been able to invest in social programs that deliver additional value downstream to the farming families they support, which delivers value upstream to the commercial roasters by providing transparency into their processes and consistently better products to take to market.
I had the privilege to visit Volcafe in San José, Costa Rica, and learn more about the success of Volcafe Way. Because of TrackVia, their global mission is a reality and they’re putting farm profitability front and center. They’re using data-driven methods to increase transparency and traceability while raising economic, social, and environmental standards.
If you’re interested in modernizing your supply chain, it’s surprisingly easy. Like Volcafe, you can centralize data and automate processes end-to-end, such as inventory and warehouse management, customer requirements, logistics, returns management, sourcing and supplier management, risk and compliance, and more— all with an app built by you using a drag-and-drop interface, no IT or coding required. See how this Fortune 500 security logistics company dramatically improved its supply chain using the most-trusted low-code platform.