Coffee start-up to scale up ‘digitization’ of coffee aroma with $3m funding

11 Mar 2021

Colombian-Israeli start-up Demetria is ready to scale up its Artificial Intelligence-driven tools that digitize the taste and aroma of coffee after closing a $3 million seed funding round.

Demetria uses portable infra-red sensors, AI tools and cloud-based data to automatically analyse the sensory profile of coffee beans at each stage of the production process.

Coffee start-up to scale up ‘digitization’ of coffee aroma with $3m funding

This month, the start-up closed a $3 million seed funding round led by Latin American-Israeli investor Celeritas and a group of private investors that included Mercantil Colpatria, the investment branch of Colombian financial giant Grupo Colpatria.

The start-up also recently completed a pilot with Carcafe, the Colombian coffee division of ED&F Man-owned Volcafe. Carcafe used Demetria’s portable sensors to determine which green beans matched a sought-after taste – known as a ‘high-value cupping profile’ – and is now rolling out the technology in its operations.

Demetria uses infra-red sensors to analyse green coffee beans for biochemical markers. Its software then matches the aroma and taste profile of each bean according to a conventional flavour wheel, which allows users to track the quality and taste of coffee beans at any stage of production.

Its technology essentially allows growers and traders to taste the coffee without actually tasting it, and replaces what Demetria calls the “primitive supply chain and artisanal processes” that have been used by the industry for 300 years.

Today, coffee roasters rely on the expensive, time-consuming and manual method of cupping to determine the quality of coffee. Cupping is carried out by certified tasting experts who are usually based in the importing countries. This means that roasters and traders have little visibility into the quality of the beans they buy until late into the process. Coffee farmers are also unable to track the quality of their crop in real time.

Demetria's co-founder and CEO Felipe Ayerbe said: “It's hard to believe that the world's biggest roasters have effectively been buying beans with very limited knowledge about their quality, and that the majority of coffee farmers, the most critical players in the supply chain, don't understand the quality of their own crops and hence are paid unfairly, threatening the sustainability of this $450 billion industry.”

Gathering data about crop consistency and quality control throughout the production process could readdress the economics of the coffee value chain to benefit every key player, Ayerbe added.

Around 60% of the global coffee crop is produced by some 12.5 million smallholder farmers. As they do not have the tools to guarantee consistent quality for each bean, many farmers receive a base commodity price for their crop, said Demetria, receiving on average just 2.5% from a cup of coffee that is sold at $2.80, or seven cents.

Demetria also sees its tools and software as an important way to further drive the premiumisation of coffee.

Eduardo Shoval, co-founder and executive chairman of Demetria, said: "The 'wine-ification' of coffee means that levels of discernment and premiums for the beverage have been increasing exponentially, yet the perception and treatment of coffee farmers differs vastly compared to that of vineyard owners. Our vision is to provide an enhanced and sustainable quality coffee experience for all coffee drinkers globally, while revamping the industry's value chain for the 21st century."

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