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How is mobile technology helping global coffee growers?

Mobile technology is becoming an increasingly prevalent part of our lives, with a smartphone app for just about everything from keeping track of weight loss to flushing the toilet. In the coffee world, many growers are based in developing countries where online and mobile connections are often poor, which means they miss out on technological ways to help make their lives easier and keep up to date with the latest developments in the industry. Or does it? This is in fact not the case, as in recent months, several innovative pieces of mobile technology have been launched that aim to serve just these purposes. Although the older generation of coffee growers may not necessarily take advantage of such inventions, the younger members of farming families may have more of an understanding of mobile technology and be able to help to bring the industry well and truly into the 21st century. In an article for Fast Company Magazine published in May 2014, Tina Amirtha wrote about some of the latest developments that have been helping coffee growers and their families, which aim to give them improved access to information about important issues affecting them, such as climate change. The weather can have a powerful impact on the growing of coffee beans, with particularly harsh circumstances potentially ruining a whole harvest for farmers. In a bid to combat this issue, UK startup WeatherSafe has launched an app that aims to provide in-depth information about the climate to coffee growers in Rwanda, with more advanced versions also being available for cooperatives in the area and for the government. Ms Amirtha explains: “Through satellite imagery, hyper-local weather data can signal forthcoming conditions and give targeted warnings to farmers.  “Coffee farmers can even upload images of trouble spots in their fields to get advice from researchers on how to manage the situation. Data models for the farming areas can also help growers decide how to handle their fields.” Elsewhere in the world of coffee growing, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (FNC) has made its coffee portal app available on mobile devices, meaning farmers can access up-to-date information about current bean prices and general market issues, as long as they have a mobile connection. Kira Angulo, an account lead at SAP – the software company which helps the FNC to manage the app – told Ms Amirtha: “We work together and decide what is the best information that will be useful for them. For example, the price of coffee, every day, is so important.” Having access to such technology will help coffee growers stay aware of potentially harvest-threatening changes in the weather, as well as helping them get the right price for their produce by keeping an eye on current costs, which is something we at DR Wakefield are extremely passionate about. In addition, with the spread of coffee rust being a concern in some countries at present, the global coffee executive vice president of Starbucks Craig Russell states: “Supporting the farmer’s ability to access information, technology and resources allows them to adapt to these uncertainties and ensures the longevity of our industry’s supply chain.” With the world becoming increasingly reliant on such technology, it will certainly be interesting to keep an eye on further inventions and whether or not connections will be improved to help make the quality of life better for our coffee bean farmers.