Demetria and Nespresso enter deal to bolster coffee sector using AI agtech solution
05 Aug 2021 --- Demetria, a start-up for coffee supply chains, has entered into a commercial agreement with Nespresso enabling the Nestlé-owned coffee brand to provide high-quality coffee plants to its farmers.
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Felipe Ayerbe, CEO and co-founder of Demetria, says that while coffee is still considered a tradable commodity, the experience that consumers get is anything but.
“In the last 20 years or so, coffee has undergone a voyage of premiumization where the most important variable is sensory quality: taste. This revolution in specialty coffees was spurred in part by industry pioneers like Starbucks, Pete’s Coffee, Nespresso and others that completely upgraded the whole experience,” he explains.
Demetria is shifting industry from analog to digital by allowing the whole value chain to measure and manage taste, bringing about a different level of transparency.
“We envision that farmers will for the first time not only be able to understand the quality of what they are selling but also manage their farming practices to optimize their quality, creating an unparalleled level of empowerment for them.”
Furthermore, buyers of coffee will benefit from having full digital visibility to understand who is producing the type of quality that they need, Ayerbe details.
Paying for premium
Coffee drinkers today are more aware of the taste and general experience they are looking for and are willing to pay more for that experience. This has spurred an ever-growing array of possibilities and choices.
Like wine, the intrinsic sensory or taste characteristics of coffee are determined by a series of farm factors related to the “terroir,” as well as the harvesting and post-harvesting processes.
“Consumers, in general, are becoming more interested in having a connection with the food they consume and have a deeper conscience of the impact of the consumption,” Ayerbe underscores.
“In the case of coffee, we believe that the main drivers driving the need for transparency are economic/social sustainability, environmental concerns, as well as health and wellness factors.”
Valuing sustainability and transparency
The coffee sector is concerned about long-term sustainability, specifically the need to provide coffee farmers with enough income to ensure a good living standard.
“When a consumer wants transparency, they would like to understand that their consumption is contributing to solving the problem, not making it worse,” Ayerbe notes.
“We are working to implement transparency by digitizing and democratizing the measurement of sensory quality, as well as offering true farm-to-table traceability of the coffee beans.”
In this way, it enables farmers to measure, manage and get a better price for their coffee. Consumers can have better visibility of the origin of the coffee they are consuming, he explains.
Demetria offers producers and roasters insights utilizing near-infra-red sensor technology and AI-driven data intelligence.
The company is launching a suite of SaaS-based solutions to deliver taste assessment and profiling of green coffee beans and swift, accurate quality measurement and traceability throughout the supply chain.
As part of Nespresso’s work to bring sustainable coffee to its customers, the brand develops new varieties through the grafting of coffee tree seedlings, a horticultural technique used to join two plants. Hence, they grow as a single plant.
To date, Nespresso relied on the experience of a few trained experts to manually examine the seedling to detect if the grafting process was successful and the plant was viable.
A joint process
Demetria applies its handheld sensor technology and machine-learning models to enable Nespresso’s operational teams to measure and classify grafted stems of specific coffee tree seedlings with the same precision as a highly trained expert.
During a pilot, Demetria’s application was used to classify over 240,000 seedlings in a three-month period that have since been supplied to Nespresso’s selected network of farmers in Colombia.
The technology allows Nespresso to significantly amplify operational capacity and efficiency while achieving process consistency given coffee plants’ automated measurement and classification. The outcome of this collaborative process will provide coffee farmers across Colombia with high-quality grafted plants, contributing to their productivity and livelihoods.
“Demetria was able to understand, design, develop and deploy a solution to meet our needs in the field in a very tight timeframe,” says Santiago Arango, green coffee project manager at Nestlé Nespresso.
“This work is an introduction to our long-term plans with Demetria. We are embarking on applying its technology to build a suite of applications that will allow our network of farmers to accurately measure and manage their post-harvest processes for the first time to produce optimal coffee quality consistently.”
“We hope this application is just one of many high-value use cases we can provide, bringing a new level of efficiency to a critical stage of coffee production while minimizing the cost of failure for both the roaster and the farmer.”
Demetria recently announced a US$3 million seed funding round led by Latin American-Israeli investor Celeritas and a group of private investors.
AI’s impact on industry
The importance of AI in F&B has been gaining traction in recent years.
Just this week, Danone and biosciences company Brightseed – creator of the AI software Forager that maps and predicts the health impact of plant-based compounds – entered into a partnership.
The collaboration is said to delve deeper into the health potential of various plant sources by pinpointing their potent bioactive compounds.
By Elizabeth Green
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