Innovations in Coffee Growing at CoopePalmares R.L.
By Pete Maskiell - The Caffè Umbria Farm Alliance Project was started in 2015 as a way for us to expand our support of the coffee cooperatives we work with. This year’s recipient of our contribution is CoopePalmares R.L. for the purchase of an innovative new coffee plant nursery.
In a traditional coffee nursery, individual plants grow in recyclable plastic bags filled with about 4 pounds of soil. In Costa Rica, common practice is to place two plants next to each other in the same bag, doubling their crop for a yield of about 60 plants per square meter. These plants are hand-carried (six plants to a milk crate weighing over 35 pounds each) to the farm where they will be planted.
The new experimental coffee nursery is designed to maximize space, minimize water and soil usage, reduce recyclables, increase volume, lower production costs, and facilitate transport of new young plants to the farms.
As Jose Angel, the General Manager at CoopePalmares, shows us, this new type of experimental nursey shows great potential. As an agricultural engineer, you can tell that these are the types of experiments that make him tick!
The nursery system uses a metal rack with chain link fence attached to the top, where individual plant cups rest in the fence grate. The cups are reusable plastic with a shelf life of ten years, a great improvement from the current need to recycle each plastic bag after one use. Each plant cup holds one plant, eliminating competition and creating fuller, healthier plants.
If fully maximized, one square meter of fence grate will hold 265 plants. Even if every other space in the fence grate is filled, it will hold 144 plants, an improvement of 240% over existing space usage. Each cup holds nine ounces of soil, so once the plant matures, the weight of transporting plants to the farms is greatly reduced. Twenty-four plants fill one milk crate for a weight of 15 pounds per crate.
We wish everyone at CoopePalmares great success with this venture and are proud to partner with them in this innovative growing system.
Jose Angel pulls a plant out of the growing cups to show the plant’s root system. Even in a smaller growing container, the root structure is healthy and white, indicating maximum nutrient extraction from the soil.
CoopePalmares R.L. is one of Costa Rica’s best coffee growing cooperatives and our primary supplier of Costa Rican varietals. Coffee cooperatives are critical to coffee farming communities as they provide many vital services to its members and their families. They also provide funding for testing more efficient methods of coffee farming and processing, so the cooperative and the community can garner a higher premium and improve sustainability of their crops. CoopePalmares’ positive involvement within their community highlights the type of ethical impact we value in our business partners, and reflects the level of social responsibility and mindfulness that we believe in at Caffè Umbria.