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Compadre Story - Solar Roasted Coffee in Rural Peru

by François Veynandt, France  (EUREC 2007-2008)

Roots

Compadre has been founded by a team of young passionate Peruvians who dedicate themselves to improving the quality of life in their country. I also contributed to the adventure :). They seek and develop solutions for the rural sector and vulnerable population.

The story started at the “Grupo de Apoyo al Sector Rural” – support group to the rural sector — at the Catholic University of Peru (PUCP). Since 21 years, the “GRUPO PUCP” develops appropriate solutions for the rural sector. After the technology transfer of the Scheffler solar concentrator in 2011 by Damien Puigserver (EUREC Alumni 2007-2008), a solar roaster has been developed for this concentrator in 2012. The good results on coffee roasting (link to article) encouraged to developing further the technology. Solar roasting of cacao (link to article) has been investigated in 2014 with the construction of a demonstration plant to process cacao beans with solar energy. In parallel, the project of using the technology for social and environmental benefits found support from UTEC Ventures. The startup Accesol has then been founded in late 2014. The concept evolved from selling the technology, to providing access to the technology and taking care of the commercialization of the roasted coffee beans. Indeed, this overcomes two difficulties: the farmers have little investment capacity and they are not involved in commercial networks of roasted coffee. But by roasting his coffee, the farmer is involved in the transformation chain of his product. This enables him to benefits from most of the added value generated by his coffee, multiplying his income by 2 or 3!

This gave birth to Compadre: this latin-american name underlines a strong relationship and deep friendship between two people, in a similar way as “brother” in English. This represents the stronger binding sought between the farmer and the coffee drinker. Compadre is the vehicle of a much fairer economy, where the added value is not confiscated by monopolistic players. Compadre is a way. It needs to evolve further, improve, spread/swarm, be replicated, copied, adapted…

With Compadre, interesting changes are at hand:

  • appropriate technology can reach the farmers.
  • added value can be generated in rural areas: decentralizing the added value is a key factor for a fairer economy.

People can live decently in a sustainable way on their land:

  • more diverse and interesting jobs can be developed
  • rural exodus can be mitigated,
  • local communities can sustain themselves,
  • their traditions and culture – richness of humanity — can survive

2015: First Year of Operation

After the 6 months launch from UTEC Ventures, financing and guidance has been obtained from the program Startup Peru. Compadre was also selected among the 30 semi-finalists out of 3000 start-ups at the Hello Tomorrow challenge in France. We are now accompanied by NESST, organization that helps social and sustainable entrepreneurship to flourish.

In 2015 Compadre ran a pilot plan to learn and validate the business model: we have worked with one first farmer, Cristobal Olortegi, 62 years old. He cultivates organic coffee in a village near Satipo, a city in the central Andes of Peru (8 hours west from the capital city Lima). Cristobal and his wife Victoria have been formed to roast themselves their coffee beans. Their yearly production of 700 kg has been roasted from September 2015 to March 2016.

The aim of this pilot plan was also to develop the commercialization of the coffee: it takes some efforts to get Compadre's coffee and its story known! The small roaster has 1 kg maximum capacity –depending on solar radiation. Each batch takes 15 to 25 minutes. The added value of roasted coffee is worth spending that time. But there are also two roasters of 5 kg maximum capacity in the solar cacao processing demonstration plant. This workshop is located in Huyro, a village further South, near the sacred valley of the Inca (close to Machu Picchu). The climate is similar and it is also a producing region of coffee, cacao, tea… Two women in Huyro were also formed to roast coffee. They could roast some coffee as well, generating added value in a rural area by local people, using sustainable direct solar energy.

2016: Plan and Challenges

From the experience gained in our first year of operation, we are developing a first proper production unit. Two roasters of 5 kg, based on an 8 m² Scheffler solar concentrator each, will be built. Additionally to the solar roaster, the workshop requires a cooler, which is typically part of the roaster, and small equipment for pre-processing (shelling) and post-processing (packaging) of the beans. Before roasting, the beans are sorted manually, to remove the ones with defaults.

Five to ten farmers will work on this workshop. A phase of formation will be necessary to let them discover the world of roasting. Like in the wine field, small producers transform their grapes into wine themselves. Why not coffee growers?

The funding for the roasting workshop has been acquired with the help of our partner NESST.

To sustain and develop the sales a subscription model is being launched: people can order a regular amount of coffee that they receive each month. Returnable glass packages should be used to reduce waste production.

To expand further sales, the exportation market is also a big opportunity, though challenging. The mainstream model for coffee consists in exporting dry green beans in tons, filling whole boat containers with 40kg bags. Starting with small quantities makes the transportation more expensive. Additionally, roasted coffee has a shorter “best before” date which means efficient logistics is desirable. The issue is recently being studied and opportunities to start exportation are under study. This development to international markets, though in early stages, is important to enable Compadre to benefit to more farmers. Indeed Peru is not a big coffee consumer, but coffee is the second product most traded in the world after oil. This again is a challenge to overcome to spread Compadre’s positive impact.

Perspectives

This first production unit should enable Compadre to reach financial sustainability. The work will then be to replicate and swarm the model to other villages, other regions, other countries.

The vision is to generate other economic opportunities that help sustain rural areas. Most importantly, we wish to also develop productions for the local market. There is much to be done to achieve sustainability even in rural areas: preserving wood resources, soils, water, the ecosystem, the biodiversity in cultures, traditions... The local economy should use local resources in a sustainable way to ensure its food sovereignty and freedom, contributing as a complement to the “global economy”.

We feel such businesses should be the focus and can be developed everywhere. We hope Compadre will inspire you to contribute further to a more peaceful and fairly prosperous world. We believe in people.

 

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