The past couple of weeks have been a rush of excitement and crazy planning. Augustine is currently deep in the jungle, working with about 30 farmers to perfect our fermentation process.
Two months ago we started with an idea. If we could lock fresh beans into a fermentation container, we’ll be able to change the industry for good.
Cocoa is a highly fragmented and largely artisanal industry. The nature of the Theobroma cacao tree is such that it has to be nurtured and tended by hand. The trees also do not do well as a mono-culture which means most harvesting takes place in deep forests and hidden corners of jungle.
This intransparency is exactly what creates the opportunities for all manor of bad behaviour. Human slavery and child labour are rife. Pristine rainforests get decimated with herbicides to make way for new trees.
Traceability is crucial to ensure that we understand where the beans come from. So far, no one is offering an adequate solution.
After nearly twenty years of pledges the key players are still only providing limited traceability.
With our invention one can now trace the beans back to the first mile. Not only this, we are changing the dynamics of the market to provide higher revenue for farmers and better quality beans for confectioners and millers.
The economics of the industry are keeping farmers trapped in a cycle. Lack of capital is forcing them to adopt sub-optimal farming practices. Their practices (forest fermentation, wood roasting) lead to contaminated and lower quality beans.
Even the farmers who can afford to set up a basic fermentation and refinement station cannot create the ideal conditions for a consistent quality.
The industry frustration is well known. Up to a quarter of the beans have to be picked and removed from the final batches, leading to extra labour for exporters and lower prices for farmers.
We are offering farmers a new way. We are buying Cocoa wet. What does this mean? Instead of holding on to their beans for ten days, drying, fermenting, storing and securing the beans against theft, the farmers can now hand them off on day one.
Saved labour, reduced risk, and a far better price than they would get.
What would you do if someone told you they would pay you the same for one day of labour, as you have traditionally been paid for 10? This is essentially the quantum leap our innovation is introducing.
Next week we’ll have the data and first images of the fermentation kits in action.