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Start-up Demetria automates analysis of coffee bean quality

Demetria has created an AI-based data intelligence platform that accurately matches each bean profile according to the industry standard coffee flavor wheel. Growers can now better manage the quality of their crop and increase their income.

Until now, coffee bean quality has been determined solely by cupping, a manual, expensive, time-consuming process carried out by the industry’s certified tasting experts, located in countries where coffee is exported to. Consequently, growers, roasters and traders have had minimal visibility into the quality of beans they are purchasing until very late in the process, says Demetria.

Moreover, cupping is inaccessible to the vast majority of the 12.5M smallholder farmers who produce 60% of the world’s coffee beans and cannot determine or manage the quality of their crop, with many unable to earn a reliable living, states the Israeli start-up, which recently closed a $ 3 million seed funding round.

Growers receive just a base commodity price

According to Demetria, global coffee production is beset by a host of factors that make crop quality volatile and its market unstable. Farmers’ inability to guarantee a consistent level of quality of bean means that a significant number of them receive just a base commodity price for their produce. Only later in the process, when beans pass through an extensive and complex supply chain that incorporates traders, processors and exporters, is quality determined. Consequently, farmers receive on average just 2.5% ($ 0.07) from a cup of coffee retailing at $ 2.80, says the start-up.

Portable near infra-red (NIR) sensors

That should change thanks to Demetria’s technology, an AI-based data intelligence platform that matches each bean profile according to the industry standard coffee flavor wheel. The system uses portable near infra-red (NIR) sensors to analyse and fingerprint green coffee beans for biochemical markers.

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Demetria's AI-based data intelligence platform matches each bean profile according to the industry standard coffee flavor wheel. The system uses portable near infra-red (NIR) sensors to analyse and fingerprint green coffee beans for biochemical markers. - Photo: Demetria
Demetria's AI-based data intelligence platform matches each bean profile according to the industry standard coffee flavor wheel. The system uses portable near infra-red (NIR) sensors to analyse and fingerprint green coffee beans for biochemical markers. - Photo: Demetria

“The ability to discover the quality of green coffee beans is a game changer for an entire industry that’s relied on a primitive supply chain and artisanal processes for 300 years. It’s hard to believe that the world’s biggest roasters have effectively been buying beans with very limited knowledge about their quality, and that the majority of coffee farmers, the most critical players in the supply chain, don’t understand the quality of their own crops and hence are paid unfairly, threatening the sustainability of this $ 450 billion industry,” said Demetria’s co-founder and CEO Felipe Ayerbe.

“Our technology delivers vital intelligence to ensure crop consistency and quality control, resulting in readdressing the economics of the coffee value chain to benefit every key player.”

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Series of apps

Demetria says it has successfully completed a pilot with Carcafe, the Colombian coffee division of agricultural commodity trader Volcafe/ED&F Man. Carcafe has identified a distinct high value ‘cupping’ profile and Demetria has built a matchmaking solution to determine which green beans will suit.

The company is also working with Federación Nacional de Cafeteros (FNC), the Colombian National Federation for Coffee Growers, to develop a series of apps that help farmers and their transaction points in the supply chain to control and track bean quality, and price it accordingly.

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