Coffee: Balancing the Complexity of Production and Providing Caffeine

A cup of coffee is a revered part of many people’s morning rituals. Whether it’s a cup with friends or work day savior, over 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily and the global coffee market was valued at a staggering USD 465.9 billion in the year 2020! 

Since October 1 marks International Coffee Day, we wanted to share some background on the process of coffee production, where coffee is produced in the world and the unexpected but important role of agronomics in coffee quality and production. 

Understanding the Coffee Production Process

While a delicious cup of joe might magically appear out of a coffee pot each morning, there’s an interesting backstory on the beans and how they make it into our cups. There’s a ten-step process from plant to bean to brew. 

  1. Planting: Coffea trees are shrub-like plants that were domesticated in Ethiopia. They grow from a coffee bean – an unroasted one, of course! Coffee plant cultivation involves planting in beds, protecting seedlings from direct sunlight, and watering frequently. 
  1. Harvesting: Coffee trees can take three to four years to bear fruit. Called coffee cherries, the fruit of coffee trees are bright red when ripe and often require hand-picking due to ripening time variability. In some places, particularly where the plantations are flat and large, harvesting has been mechanized. Cherries can either be picked by stripping all the fruit off an entire branch at once, or individually based on their ripeness. Typically, there is one main harvest of coffee cherries per year. 
  1. Processing: Cherries are processed quickly after harvesting to avoid spoilage. Processing can be done using a dry method or a wet method, depending on local resources. The dry method involves spreading freshly picked cherries on large surfaces to dry in the sun and raking them throughout the day. 

The wet method removes the coffee cherry pulp to dry the cherries with only the parchment skin. The cherries travel through a pulping machine to separate the skin from the pulp, and then the beans are separated by weight as they sink or float in water channels. Heavy, flavorful fruits will sink. After being separated by rotating drums, the beans are fermented in water. 

  1. Drying: After 12 to 48 hours, wet method processed beans must be rinsed and dried. Beans are sun-dried or machine-dried in large tumblers until they reach 11% moisture. 
  1. Milling: The milling of coffee cherries is a multi-step, pre-export process. Wet or dry processed coffee is hulled to remove the parchment layer or the entire dried husk from the cherries. Polishing may be done to remove any remaining silver skin. Then, beans are sorted and graded by size, weight, color flaws, and imperfections. Beans can be sorted using air jets to separate beans by weight. Defective beans are removed. 
  1. Exporting: The beans are ready for international travel. They’re loaded onto ships in shipping or plastic-lined containers. 
  1. Tasting: Coffee tasting, or “cupping”, is done by professionals looking for bean visual quality, aroma, and taste. Beans are roasted in a small roaster, then ground and infused for the copper to smell and taste. Coffees are evaluated for the purpose of blending different beans or building the right roast. 
  1. Roasting: Beans are roasted to convert them from green coffee into aromatic beans that are ground and used to make that cup of joe. Beans are roasted at about 550 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the beans reach 400 degrees, the oil inside the beans begins to emerge and creates the well-known coffee flavor and aroma. Beans are cooled by air or water. Once roasted, beans are on the clock for reaching the consumer. Once roasted, beans are on the clock for reaching the consumer. 
  1. Grinding: Beans are then ground to the appropriate coarseness for the intended brewing method. The finer the grind, the more quickly coffee should be prepared. 
  1. Brewing: The last step in the coffee process is extracting the coffee through brewing. Coffee can be brewed in many different ways, depending on the grind and drinker’s preference. For example, espresso machines use fine coffee and high pressure to extract coffee and make the perfect latte or macchiato! 

Coffee Around the World

Coffee has as diverse growing locations as it does drinking locations. Over 50 countries around the world produce coffee, though the ideal location for coffee cultivation is along the Equatorial zone, between latitudes 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South. This area is referred to as “The Bean Belt”. Different varieties of coffee thrive at different altitudes, in different soils, and at different temperatures. 

Guatemala, Costa Rica, Columbia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Ivory Coast, Yemen, Indonesia, Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rice, and Vietnam all have notable coffee production. Coffee from different areas produces different flavors and aromas. 

Hawaiian coffee takes advantage of good rains, black volcanic soils, and tropical clouds to provide a rich, aromatic, medium-bodied coffee. In Puerto Rico, two major growing regions produce coffee with a balanced body and acidity and a fruity aroma. Indonesia is known for fine-aged coffees with a deeper body and less acidity. Vietnamese coffee plant cultivation happens on small plantations but the country is quickly becoming a major coffee production powerhouse. Much Vietnamese coffee is used for blending due to its mild body and light acidity. 

The quality and flavor of coffee are dependent on many variables. Plant variety and genetics, soil, climate, rainfall, sunlight or shade, altitude, and nutrient inputs all change the characteristics of coffee. For example, Guatemalan coffee grown at altitudes of 4500 feet is described as “strictly hard beans” and has a unique spicy or chocolatey complexity. Yemeni coffee cultivation happens in areas where water is sparse and the beans tend to be small and irregularly shaped, with a deep, rich, distinctive flavor. 

The Agronomics Behind the “Cup of Joe”

Coffee plant cultivation requires agronomic expertise. Soil, rainfall, shade, and wind all answer the question of what affects coffee production. 

Soil requirements for growing coffee include deep, well-drained soils. Oftentimes, volcanic-origin soils are good for growing coffee. Leached topsoil, poor drainage, or solid rock near the surface of the soil will not meet the coffee trees’ requirements for growing. 

Coffee will perform well in soils that handle high rainfall by distributing the moisture in the soil. However, fertilizer leaching is a risk in these areas, requiring intentional management for coffee plant cultivation sustainability. 

Rainfall distribution is important for coffee production. Too much moisture can increase vegetative growth and reduce fruiting, while a short dry period can help synchronize the cropping cycle. Plantations can irrigate to manage the moisture needs of the coffee plant.

Shade can be used intentionally by coffee growers to address climates that are too warm for coffee. Restricting light can also prevent trees from overbearing in areas where fertilizer supplies are limited. 

Coffee trees are susceptible to wind and require a windbreak to prevent tearing, cupping, and removal of leaves or even ripe cherries. 

What affects coffee production?

Outside of Mother Nature, coffee characteristics can be heavily influenced by cultivation practices. Coffee plantations will take fertilizer and irrigation requirements into consideration as well as pesticide application needs. 

The first five years of a coffee plant’s life are the most critical. During this time, coffee plant nutrition needs must be met to encourage vigorous root and leaf growth. Young trees have high phosphorus requirements to promote root production. 

Once trees are bearing fruit, the coffee plant nutrition needs change to sustain leaves, stems, roots, and fruit. In the plantation orchard system, pruned wood and coffee leaf litter return nutrients to the soil. But, nutrients may be lost by leaching, erosion, or volatilization. Farmers may apply fertilizer for coffee nutrient management through an irrigation system or broadcast it by hand. 

Second-year and older trees can have leaf tissue analyzed to identify any nutrient imbalances. Tissue tests can identify nutrient deficiencies before they become visible symptoms.  Fertilizers for coffee plants can be customized based on the results of the tissue analysis. 

Irrigation is an important topic in coffee cultivation. In areas with less than 60 inches of rainfall a year, irrigation is recommended, though water needs are often referred to in terms of “crop coefficient,” or the crop’s water demand in relation to the evaporation occurring in an open pan of water in the orchard. Water needs also differ for young, nonbearing trees and two-year and older trees.  

Drip or micro-emitter systems are often used on plantations. Applying water is a balance between cost efficiency and plant health. Overirrigation is a risk for coffee plant cultivation and can cause poor root development and even death. Overirrigation is more likely if there is a solid rock pan below the topsoil that catches water and allows it to stand. 

Weeds, diseases, and insects can be other challenges to growing coffee. Coffee plantations can control what major weeds they experience through manual or mechanized means. The major vines of concern are morning glory, ivy gourd, and bitter melon. Weed control can cost up to 10% of annual growing costs. Groundcovers can be used preventatively for weed control. 

Green scale is one of the most impactful pests for coffee as it sucks sap from the coffee plant and covers the leaves in black sooty mold that reduces photosynthesis. Green scale can be biologically controlled with white halo fungus. Growers can also use soil or foliar applied imidacloprid to control green scale. 

Black twig borer is another damaging insect in coffee plant cultivation. It causes wilting and death of leaves and wood, leaving bark black. The best control for these beetles is keeping trees healthy and pruning infested laterals. 

Coffee is also susceptible to nematodes and disease. Root-knot nematodes enter and feed on roots, disrupting growth. Cercospora leaf spot is a common fungus in coffee-growing areas but can be controlled by managing growing conditions and coffee plant nutrition needs. 

Other funguses to which coffee is susceptible include coffee leaf rust and coffee berry disease. Coffee leaf rust causes yellow-orange lesions on the leaves, and the fungus is spread by wind, rain, or even the clothing and coffee bags around the coffee trees. Copper fungicides and resistant varieties are the main methods of control. 

Coffee berry disease causes brown, sunken lesions on green cherries and eventually will destroy the bean. Quarantine is the best control for the fungus. The most aggressive strain of coffee berry disease is found in Africa, though other strains are seen worldwide. 

What are the challenges of growing coffee?

In recent years, coffee production has been troubled by a variety of challenges. Around the world, June 2022 production estimates have been lowered from the December 2021 projections. Too much rainfall and cloud cover has cut back Columbian crop production, while Honduras production estimates have dropped 1.4 million bags due to leaf rust slashing yields. Brazil’s drought and cold cultivation season in 2021 caused farmers to cut down coffee trees.  

With harvest 2022 in sight, Brazil’s coffee crop is projected to be at its lowest since 2014. This year’s arabica cherries have smaller than usual beans leading to disappointing yields. Smaller beans mean more are required to fill weight-based bags, and overall output is reduced. 

Sustainable Production and Improved Quality with Agmatix

Coffee crop cultivation can be a challenge! Between pests, disease, climate sensitivity, and meeting plant nutrition needs, attaining high yields and good quality cherries can feel very difficult. The good news is that crop management software can help collect data and support decision-making for the most productive, most sustainable crop possible. 

Agmatix is an agro informatics company dedicated to transforming data into insights. For coffee growers, the Digital Crop Advisor platform can help optimize crop nutrition management, customize fertilization planning, and monitor sustainability KPIs of nutrition plans and agronomic practices. 

Our Digital Crop Advisor is a decision support system with scientifically-proven data to inform specific crop protocol management. Insights are based on over 150 crops and crop-essential nutrients, and multi-device support makes it easy to optimize crop nutrition with the planning tool. 

The Digital Crop Advisor also simplifies coffee nutrient management with seamless crop nutrition optimization plans through a customized fertilization planning tool. It’s key to meet coffee plant nutrition needs, but those needs may differ based on plant age, growth stage, climate, and more. Because fertilizer for coffee plants has a risk of leaching, especially in certain soil types, precise and well-timed applications are key. Digital Crop Advisor makes balancing meeting coffee plant nutrition needs with protecting the environment easier than ever before. 

Agronomic data insights are available through the analysis of aggregated and standardized data. Both legacy and ongoing research data can be visualized and analyzed to support decision-making. Agmatix also makes it easy to harness the expertise of advisors and researchers through a collaboration wizard.  

Understanding the environmental impact of decision-making in coffee cultivation can be challenging. The Digital Crop Advisor allows users to monitor sustainability KPIs such as carbon footprint and nitrogen leaching. Integrated support of lab analysis is supported, and the customized fertilization planning tool helps producers understand the environmental impact of nutrient recommendations before they are used on the plantation. 

While “sustainability” is a buzzword in many areas of agriculture, coffee production can have a  big environmental impact, and coffee trees are particularly sensitive to changes in climate, making changes in climate of particular concern for coffee plant cultivation. Coffee quality can be negatively impacted by changing light exposure, altitude, water stress, temperature, carbon dioxide, and nutrient management. Using tools like Agmatix’s Digital Crop Advisor is a win-win for higher production, better quality, and sustainable production for the future of a good brew.  

Agmatix’s Commitment to a Zero Emissions Future

Zero Emissions Day, September 21st, is a day to pause and think about greenhouse gas emissions and the future we envision for the planet. It is a reminder that preserving the Earth in a liveable state requires the global temperature increase to be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Earth is already roughly 1 degree Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels

Net zero is the state in which any greenhouse gas emissions are either eliminated or re-absorbed from the atmosphere. Reaching net zero will require all hands on deck, across countries and industries. It provides an opportunity for agriculture to reduce its carbon footprint, too. 

Agriculture plays a big role in global emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agriculture is responsible for roughly 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And that number is increasing; over the last forty years, agricultural emissions stemming from human activity have increased by 30%. Recent activity has impacted agriculture’s emissions. 

A majority of the 669.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from agriculture came from direct nitrous oxide, and direct methane was also a big contributor. The good news is that agriculture emissions were roughly four percent lower in 2018 compared to 2000. However, nitrous oxide emissions from synthetic fertilizers and crop residue incorporation were more than 35% higher in the same period. 

Agriculture is also at risk from emissions. Climate change is expected to reduce corn, soybean, rice, cotton, and oat yields starting even as early as right now! This could increase the need for irrigation in crop production, all while regional water availability continues to be a challenge. 

Weather patterns are expected to change. Farmers are expected to have the flexibility to adjust production practices to changing weather and resources, but flexibility could be harnessed now to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture. 

There’s a global effort to reach net zero. Agriculture is a key to reaching this goal. More than 70 countries have set a target to reach net-zero emissions, and over 1,200 companies have set targets as well. 

Innovative solutions are essential to meet the challenges the world is facing today in agricultural production. The more information farmers, researchers, and agronomists have, the better the chances to leverage agricultural big data to make informed decisions in the field that will result in higher yields, better crop quality, and lower environmental impact. 

Agmatix is one such company providing innovative solutions for agriculture because sustainability is a foundational part of who we are. Agmatix helps agronomists, researchers, and farmers customize crop nutrition recommendations based on a verified, scientific-based crop nutrient decision-support system that not only improves yield but also provides a sustainability scoring index for each crop’s nutrient management plan.

Agmatix’s Commitment to Sustainability

Agmatix is committed to helping reach the zero-emission goal by 2050. Our unique data science and AI agricultural platform transforms agricultural big data into actionable insights for farmers, researchers, and agronomists to make informed decisions to improve crop yields, and nutritional quality, while ultimately helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the agricultural carbon footprint.

Plant nutrition carbon footprint optimizer

The Digital Crop Advisor solution uses agronomic field trial data to allow farmers to optimize crop nutrition – applying just the right amount to give plants what they need, without an unnecessary runoff, waste of resources, and lower environmental footprint.

With Agmatix, farmers can calculate the carbon footprint of their fertilizer plans based on field characteristics, agronomic practices, crop and fertilizer type, and more. Farmers can even run simulations of different recommendations to compare environmental and yield tradeoffs to learn how to reduce their agriculture carbon footprint. 

Personal environmental responsibility and employee volunteering

Agmatix is also committed to a culture of sustainability. Employees are encouraged to take personal environmental responsibility and volunteer in ways that positively impact the world we live in. 

You Can Lead this Zero Emissions Day

Opportunities abound to be a part of Zero Emissions Day. At home, select energy-efficient products. Even small changes such as unplugging your phone as soon as it’s charged and turning the heat down a single degree can make a big difference! 

On the go, find opportunities to cycle or hop on the bus. Carpool when you can, or try taking the train.

When it comes to food and agriculture, don’t forget about local and seasonal products. Give alternative proteins a try. Avoid food waste by buying what you need and using it all. Compost any food waste you do have. 

On the farm, the USDA suggests that changes in production practices could both cut greenhouse gas emissions and pull carbon from the atmosphere through carbon sequestration. 

This is a great opportunity for agriculture to take the lead in carbon footprint reduction! How might this happen? Through things like cover crops that, in the right conditions, can reduce erosion and nutrient runoff. Or producing biofuels that replace fossil fuels and can impact emissions across many industries. Reducing or eliminating tillage can impact soil health and carbon content as well as energy use on the farm. 

For a Better Tomorrow 

Agriculture has the added challenge of reducing carbon footprint while feeding a growing population. Ron Baruchi, CEO of Agmatix noted that “Growers, agronomists, researchers and ag industry experts are tackling today’s biggest challenge – providing food security for the world’s growing population.” With improved crop management decision-making, better crop quality, higher yields, and lower carbon footprints are within reach. 

A swift change is needed in agriculture to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture. With a big goal of a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030, farmers and the agriculture industry can help get sustainability trending in the right direction. 

Together, Agmatix and farmers can better understand the carbon footprint of individual farms using. Farmers can make informed decisions about nutrient programs and their impact on the farm’s carbon footprint. By growing data for impact, Agmatix and farmers are growing a better, more sustainable tomorrow.

Continued Innovation at Agmatix

We, at Agmatix, are committed to helping our customers make field-level decisions and gain actionable insights from their agronomic data. The agriculture industry is facing a number of challenges, such as the rapidly growing world population, climate change, supply chain disruption, and limited resources. This is why we continue to innovate and bring the latest solutions to address these challenges!

As an agro informatics company, our goal is to support agriculture professionals worldwide in using big data to make informed decisions. We do this through three core solutions: Insights & Models, Agronomic Trial Management, and the Digital Crop Advisor. Learn more about these solutions below.

Insights & Models

We can help you unlock true value from your agronomic data. Our Insights & Models solution analyzes and standardizes data from your field trials or experiments and converts it into power insights & models. 

The Insights tool is equipped with additional statistical capabilities most frequently used in field trial analysis (paired t-test, independent t-test, one/two-way ANOVA, and Tukey-Kramer) to bring data science capabilities and deeper analysis to your fingertips. Graphical user interface, application

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Access and Analyze all of your agronomic data in one unified place

Our user-friendly interface provides you with access and viewing capabilities of all your agronomic data in one unified place. We can ingest and harmonize your legacy trial data so you can easily compare that to your ongoing field trial data (using the Agronomic Trial Management) and perform cross-trial analysis.

With our Insights solution, you can visualize and analyze your field trials in a single location and access your data at any time. Our pre-built advanced statistical analysis widgets help you easily create customized on-demand reports to analyze your trial data, enabling you to make data-driven decisions and optimize your R&D efforts.

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Collaborate with researchers and extract exactly what you need

We understand that no two research data sets are the same. That’s why our tools allow you to standardize data from multiple experiments, no matter where your research collaborations take you. 

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Calibrate and verify statistical and machine learning models

With our platform, you can create data-driven predictive models in a single workspace. Our insights and agronomic modeling solution combine data science with agronomic trial data to help you apply agro informatics best practices.

Start Analyzing Data with Advance ML Models

Agronomic Trial Management

With our Agronomic Trial Management solution, it’s never been easier or more efficient to plan, run, and analyze your field trials. The solution’s interface has been redesigned for greater ease of use and improved navigation. In addition, users can drag and drop their trial layouts on a map, and create repetitive protocols and customizable data collection forms. 

The Agronomic Trial Management platform allows for flexible data collection using mobile devices, tablets, or a desktop, as well as field-level reporting. This feature allows users to create trial plans and perform analysis on the go. 

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Get the visibility needed to control your field trials in real-time  

Our solution helps you streamline your workflow and better collaborate with researchers and field workers by providing automatic status updates and task assignments. With full visibility of your research trials, you have the added capabilities for governance over trial protocols and task forms to help you streamline collaboration and analysis. This tool for managing field experiments enables you to “be in the field” from wherever you are.


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Standardize collected data for comparison, evaluation, and data loss prevention

Our user-friendly agronomic collection tool automatically standardizes field data as it’s entered and preserves it using our GUARDS protocol. For data entry, a wide range of agronomic domains and parameters are possible and we support both iOS and Android devices.

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Digital Crop Advisor

Build stronger relationships with your customers and optimize growers yields sustainably. With our state-of-the-art technology and data insights as a decision-support system for crop nutrition management, you can gain complete operational overview capabilities within our management dashboard. 

Managers can get an overview of all operations, and see how specific products are performing in sales and crop yields across the globe. This dashboard also allows you to oversee the environmental footprint of the recommended nutrition plans, ensuring continuous sustainability improvements. 

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Operational control and visibility of your organization’s crop yield and nutrition, product performance, and sales

From a single location you can track and monitor your organization’s nutrition recommendations across all agronomy and sales teams. Get real insights into the number of fields and coverage of each operation regionally and globally!

Our digital agronomist sales support tool also includes an easy-to-use dashboard that allows you to filter by time, crop, and more to help with data-driven decisions.

Empower field-level agronomists and agriculture professionals with verified, scientific-based crop nutrient decision-support engine

With Digital Crop Advisor, you can optimize your crop nutrition management using our 12 scientifically-proven crop nutrient recommendation data profiles. With over 150 different crops in our database, we can help you create unique nutrition plans for whatever you’re growing. This digital solution for fertilization planning will help you maximize crop productivity and sustainably use your resources.

The standardization of field-level agronomic practices helps with operational control, visibility, and unification across the growing season.

Implement and verify crop protocols throughout your organization

Utilize our fully customizable fertilization planning tool for your grower needs and get unbiased, product catalog-based recommendations. This means that you can get crop performance analyses with rapid geospatial implementations (based on your local practices) and additional support with your lab analyses Our crop data management systems allow for protocols to be shared across your organization to improve the quality, consistency, and reproducibility of practices and data collection.

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Leverage big data insights for sustainable crop nutrition

Sustainability is a foundational part of Agmatix’s company and toolkit. With our Digital Crop Advisor, you can get customized nutrient recommendations based on carbon emissions analyses. By monitoring sustainability KPIs, our tools help you reduce nitrogen leaching and optimize nutrient use efficiency so you’re able to quantify your sustainability efforts. Our decision support system allows you to easily create crop nutrition plans to optimize your crop production while keeping sustainability in mind. 

Start Optimizing Your Crop Nutritional Plans

Agmatix makes it easier to manage your agronomic field trials, increase yields, and ensure sustainability with our trial management platform and digital crop advisor solution. With a mission to help you turn agronomic data into actionable insights, we offer various solutions to facilitate that process.