Revolutionizing Waste Treatment in Coffee Production
We're excited to have pioneered a system that recovers bio-gas energy from waste that comes from coffee production on our partner farms and mills!
The energy created powers our ongoing coffee production and at the same time fights global warming.
Now we're rolling out the bio-gas treatment centers on our farms and partner farms in Central America and Africa.
Coffee Waste Bio-Gas Processing
In reducing the cost of treating waste, we've designed what we believe is a revolutionary solution to one of the industry’s most enduring and vexing problems.
In the process of treating wet mill liquids that on many farms just flow down into rain forest streams, we found ways to capture methane gas that can be used to power the drying and at the same time cleanse water to be recycled into the wet mill treatment or returned clean to streams or rivers.
This reduces expenses compared to drying coffee with propane, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to propane and wood-burning drying.
Mexico Coffee Processing Center
We first tried this six years ago on our farms in Finca Irlanda Chiapas, Mexico, and Finca Santa Maria, Panama. It was the brainchild of Andros Bracamontes Reinschlussel, an agricultural technology expert we employ in Central America.
Pete Rogers, our coffee buyer, says:
The biogas process has proven so successful that we have replicated it in some of our other farms in Central America.
We wanted to know whether it was possible to solve the water contamination problems, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, and produce fertilizer and fuel at the same time. The answer is yes with bio-digesters, a system that helps to control fermentation of organic materials under an anaerobic process.
Wet Milling Coffee Cherries
In the wet milling process, the coffee pulp and wastewater are the biggest contamination issue for the coffee industry. The wastewater usually has heavy concentrations of organic materials with high acidity (low pH), making it an expensive challenge for water treatment systems.
Our first attempt was in 2004, with a low-cost bio-digester for the cherries that came from coffee trees at Finca Irlanda Chiapas. At that mountaintop village 1,400 meters above sea level, we installed a bio-digester with a capacity of 160,000 liters. It had the room to store 68 cubic meters of bio-gas, which is enough to cook beans daily for 400 workers during harvest season.
The contamination levels in the wastewater were reduced by 80 percent.
That emboldened us to design a bigger system, adapting bio-digesters from other agricultural uses at Finca Santa Maria in Panama. That system had 1.5 times the capacity of the first model, producing methane to be piped to the coffee dryers.
The system counters global warming by capturing the gas and reducing emissions, and by reducing water pollution in coffee processing, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Bio-Gas Processing Diagram
Bio-gas is a natural product of the anaerobic degradation of organic materials. Bio-gas production is a result of methanogenesis, the decomposition of organic materials without oxygen (anaerobic fermentation). The resulting bio-gas contains methane as the main ingredient, and carbon dioxide.
We are in a constant process to redesign and improve this system to be more efficient for coffee farms, with more methane production and better filters for the methane.
The improvement in waste treatment nicely compliments our other innovations in energy sustainability and organic farming.