New technology can assess bean quality without recourse to traditional cupping method
Demetria, a taste and quality intelligence start-up for the coffee supply chain, has closed a $3 million seed funding round led by Latin American-Israeli investor Celeritas and a group of private investors including Mercantil Colpatria, the investment branch of Grupo Colpatria, a Colombian financial sector company.
Until now, coffee bean quality has been assessed by cupping, a manual, expensive and time-consuming process carried out by the industry’s certified tasting experts, located in coffee-importing countries. Consequently, roasters and traders don’t usually physically encounter the beans they are purchasing until very late in the process.
In addition, cupping is inaccessible to the majority of the 12.5 million smallholder farmers who produce 60% of the world’s coffee beans, and who cannot determine or manage the quality of their crop.
Demetria says by using portable near infra-red sensors to analyse and fingerprint green coffee beans for biochemical markers, it has created an AI-based data intelligence platform that accurately matches each bean profile according to the industry standard coffee flavour wheel.
The company adds it is launching a suite of SaaS-based solutions to replace the traditional manual production processes used to ascertain bean quality alongside cupping, delivering taste assessment and profiling, as well as swift, accurate quality measurement and traceability throughout the supply chain.
Demetria was co-founded by former investment banker and consultant, Bogota-based Felipe Ayerbe; Argentine-Israeli entrepreneur and angel investor Eduardo Shoval; Salomon Kassin, a commodity trading expert; and entrepreneur and AI expert Yori Nelken.
Demetria is dually headquartered in Bogota with an R&D team in Tel Aviv. The company also has a lab in the heart of Colombia’s coffee growing region and a commercial presence in Brazil and Switzerland.
Ayerbe said: “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. 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.”
Demetria stated it has also completed a pilot with Carcafe, the Colombian coffee division of agricultural commodity traders Volcafe/ED&F Man.
Sebastian Pinzón, general manager at Carcafe, said: “Carcafe worked with Demetria to develop a pilot application that allows anyone, anywhere, with a portable sensor, to detect a specific and high-value sensory (taste) profile of green coffee. We are in the process of adopting and rolling out this groundbreaking technology to greatly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our prospecting process at our purchase points and in the field. Demetria replaces many manual processes to determine vital data that’s previously been unavailable in the industry and is proving invaluable in making better decisions.”
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.
Roberto Velez, president of the FNC, said: “It’s extremely important that Colombia continues to strengthen its position in the specialty coffee market with more consistent and better quality in order to meet increasing demands for unique and differentiated profiles from the global market. Through the use and affordable democratisation of sensors, cloud computing and other technologies, coffee growers will be able to manage each stage of the production process in a simple, timely and accurate manner, and more importantly, evaluate the quality of their own crop and gain a price that reflects this. Technologies like Demetria empower the FNC to achieve its goals and play a key role in the sustainability of our industry.”
Demetria’s chairman Shoval concluded: “The ‘wine-ification’ of coffee means that levels of discernment and premiums for the beverage have been increasing exponentially, yet the perception and treatment of coffee farmers differs vastly compared to that of vineyard owners. Our vision is to provide an enhanced and sustainable quality coffee experience for all coffee drinkers globally, while revamping the industry’s value chain for the 21st century.”
Date published: 2 March 2021