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Colombian Coffee Federation Seeking Innovative Solutions in Harvesting

A coffee plantation in Quimbaya, Quindío. Licensed under CC by 2.5.

The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) is turning to the private sector in search of innovative, scaleable solutions for coffee harvesting.

The picking of ripe coffee cherries is typically a manual, labor-intensive process that represents one of the highest costs involved in coffee production — where fertilizer and other production costs have continued to escalate despite the fact that the price paid for coffee is oftentimes around the same as it was in the 1960s.

Additionally, with notoriously long hours and low wages for farmworkers often hired on a seasonal basis, the global coffee sector as a whole has been facing a labor shortage despite steady increases in consumption demand.

With these realities in mind, the FNC has created the “CoffeePickInn” innovation challenge, asking entrepreneurs, research groups and private companies to present selective-harvesting solutions that can make the work more efficient. The group said any proposals need to address the specific conditions of the Colombian environment, along with specific technological, agricultural, human, and economic factors.

“What we want is to generate shared value between the proponents and the FNC through joint development of innovations that solve the problem of high labor costs in coffee harvesting in Colombia, aiming at higher profitability of producers,” FNC CEO Roberto Velez said in an announcement of the program.

Working with the Connect Bogota-Region organization, which facilitates and helps implement innovation and technology transfers, the FNC says it is making available for the challenge cash and other in-kind resources for investment in the development and implementation of solutions.

As an incentive, the FNC has a pool of resources (in cash and in kind) to be invested in the development of solutions and their implementation in Colombia through profitable, scalable businesses, or through partnerships or partnership agreements.

Visit the CoffeePickInn site for much more on the initiative, including specifications for proposals, which will be accepted until Sept. 29.