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Implementing New Technology in our Coffee Nursery

Jun 20, 2020 | Coffee, Newsletter, Opportunities

By Valentina Pedrotti, Biologist & Value Chain Analyst

Building a coffee nursery is probably one of the most important activities a coffee farm needs to develop. This allows us to:

  1. Be certain of the quality of the seed, its origin, its varietal and its early treatments among many other important details.
  2. Manage the root systems of each plant from the very early beginning of seedling development
  3. Manage the early nutrition of the seedlings.

Image 1. Traditional nursery bags.

Traditional nursery systems use polythene bags. Once the seedlings are transplanted in the field, farmers end up with lots of plastic bags that cannot be re-used, neither recycled.

Besides, one of the limitations of this system is the high possibility to restrict root growth and later cause root damage and transplanting shock.  As a result, the roots ability to absorb water and minerals is affected.

So far, at International Coffee Farms we have implemented the traditional systems, taking care as much as we could to reduce any potential root damage. However, during this new cycle, we decided to implement a new technology that could reduce most of the risks we have faced so far, and in parallel, combat the plastics waste issue.

We started to plant our seeds in bio-degradable pellets!

These pellets are a medium and container in a single package, composed of Canadian peat and a permeable net that allows excellent root development and reduces stress in the early stages of cultivation. These units are directly transplanted in the farms where they decompose very quickly and do not restrict root proliferation.

With this new system we also seek to optimize the resources we use in terms of labor, transportation, fertilizer, space and water consumption.

Image 2. Lines of pellets at Horqueta 1 Farm

There is a delicate work behind the pellet nursery system installation.

  1. Pellet hydration:
    The pellets are placed in a tank that holds water, enough to cover them. After 15-20 minutes the peat pellet has absorbed enough water. As a result, the pellets increase in size.

Image 3.1 Hydrating the pellets.

Image 3.1.1. Hydrating the pellets.

Image 3.2 Water tanks with pellets

Image 3.2.1 Water tanks with pellets

Image 3.3 Pellets before and after hydration process.

2. Placement of the pellets in a flat area:

After each pellet has been hydrated, they are placed on trays, carefully designed to hold them. Due to their smaller size compared to regular polyethylene bags, we can save almost 50% of the space we required before.

Image 4. Line of pellets.

Image 4.1. Workers putting together all the pellets in the trays.

2. Placement of the pellets in a flat area:

After each pellet has been hydrated, they are placed on trays, carefully designed to hold them. Due to their smaller size compared to regular polyethylene bags, we can save almost 50% of the space we required before.

Image 5. Pellets with the new seedlings.

Besides implementing this new technology, we also redesigned the physical location of the nurseries.  Instead of having one large centralized nursery, we are creating small nurseries on or near to the farms that require planting. This allows us to improve the transportation process and reduces the possibility of causing any damage to the plants.

Over the coming months we will bring you progress reports as we begin the planting season.

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