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Developing a Specialty Coffee Farm – Part 3 Activities on the Farm: Vermicompost Harvesting

Jul 14, 2018 | Coffee, Newsletter

We hope you have enjoyed the first 2 segments in our series of agricultural reports from Valentina Pedrotti, our in-house Biologist and Value Chain Analyst.

You often hear us talking about International Coffee Farms (ICFC) “Art of Coffee Science” and how we implement modern farming practices to engineer our coffee farms to produce the best Specialty Coffee possible.

It is one thing hearing it from me..and another thing altogether hearing it directly from our experts in the fields!

So, we are delighted to continue sharing these reports from Valentina and we have more reports coming your way soon from the rest of our team of experts.

Next up is a very interesting piece about our very own “worm hotel”!

Take it away Valentina!

Welcome to the 3rd part of this series where we delve into and explore what we like to call “The Art of Coffee Science”.

When we think about specialty coffee farms, we often think about the harvest season, one of the most emblematic activities, full of bright colors and beautiful images.

But a harvest would not be possible without the daily work on the farms throughout the year. This includes many activities that are core to developing high quality specialty coffee farms and producing high quality beans.

As you may already know and/or have seen, here at our ICFC specialty coffee farms we operate and process our coffee in an environmentally safe, closed loop system by implementing a Vermicomposting System.

“What is Vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is a type of composting in which certain species of earthworms are used to enhance the process of organic waste conversion and produce a better end-product.”

During the processing of coffee, up to 60% of the total weight of the coffee cherries (Calle77,1977] remains as a byproduct in the form of coffee pulp and mucilage.  This mucilage and pulp can be highly polluting to the environment if not managed properly.

To make sure that none of this byproduct gets back into the environment we have implemented a Vermicomposting System. Using California Red Earthworms to transform the coffee pulp and mucilage into a more accessible and useful organic matter that we can then use directly in our coffee farms.

In the 2017/2018 cycle, after almost 6 months of harvesting and processing coffee, we produced a total weight of about 101,058 pounds of coffee pulp and mucilage. All this organic matter is being transformed in our Vermicomposting System before returning it to our farms.

It is a key part of our closed loop system that ensures nothing from the processing of our coffee is going to waste.

Vermicomposting harvesting process

Our worm beds are located at our Cuatro Caminos farm and it is time to “harvest the worms”.

Harvesting means we remove all the solid organic matter that the worms have processed in order to make enough space to process more coffee pulp and mucilage.

To start the process, we stop feeding the worms for a few days allowing them to eat all the unprocessed pulp that still exists in the beds.

Next, we remove the worms from the beds and we do this using “worm traps”.

Our worm traps are simply worm food in bags made of a sufficiently porous fabric that allows our earthworm friends to get into the bags.

Once we put the traps full of fresh food into the beds the worms start to migrate into the bags. After one week we can start collecting them.  How’s that for a “bag of worms”?!

After we remove all the worms we then remove the processed pulp to make space for the next batch of un-processed coffee cherry pulp from this coming harvest.

The processed pulp that we just removed, now called humus, can be used directly on our farms to greatly improve the soil.  It is an excellent form of natural fertilizer.

Additionally, we are collecting the leachate from the beds for future application on the farms. This is the liquid that runs out from the bottom of the worm beds. Known throughout the coffee industry as “liquid gold!”

We have always talked about “The Art of Coffee Science” and now you see part of it here in action.

Stay tuned for our next part of this series on Developing an ICFC  Specialty Coffee Farm where we will explain the importance of the humus and how it is used in our specialty coffee farms and following that, how we use the leachate to improve our coffee plants.

Thank you for reading this report from our Biologist and Value Chain Analyst, Valentina Pedrotti.

We have always talked about “The Art of Coffee Science” and now you see part of it here in action.

Stay tuned for our next part of this series on Developing an ICFC  Specialty Coffee Farm where we will explain the importance of the humus and how it is used in our specialty coffee farms and following that, how we use the leachate to improve our coffee plants.

Thank you for reading this report from our Biologist and Value Chain Analyst, Valentina Pedrotti.

Calle, V. H. (1977). Subproductos de café. Chinchiná, Ceniface. . Boletin Técnico N° 6., 84 pp.
Salman Zafar, August 9, 2016, What is Vermicomposting, https://www.ecomena.org/vermicomposting/

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