Delivering Change for Cacao in Colombia

By Lulu Phillips - January 14th, 2021 | Posted in Article

For the last 18 months, the Satellite Applications Catapult has been working with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (part of the High-Value Manufacturing Catapult) to transform the way farmers produce cacao in Colombia.

Together, we have created a vibrant ecosystem of supply chain, technology, innovation, policy and research organisations, which has identified and developed solutions to enhance the quality of production of cacao from Colombia, unlocking substantial growth potential. The project is supported by the British Embassy in Colombia and funded by Innovate UK and the Newton Caldas fund.

We have called this activity COLCO: the Colombian Cocoa Control System.

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What is COLCO?

The UK-based COLCO team, using expertise ranging from data science and service design to manufacturing and plant science, have joined forces with a consortium of cacao specialists, technologists, and business support experts based in Colombia. Together the consortium will develop an ecosystem of support for cacao farmers and producers and help to transform quality and yield in the pre- and post-harvest phases of the cacao supply chain.

All of the different elements of COLCO are working to bring value to each other, to create a product for the cacao supply chain that will ultimately have a value greater than the sum of its parts.

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How will COLCO help?

COLCO is developing and deploying a suite of products and services following extensive engagement with representatives across the Colombian cacao value chain.

The services, delivered directly through our UK and Colombian partners, will include:

  • Helping farmers to access increased support through in-field training on crop pests and diseases
  • Use of climate intelligence to aid farmer decision making and allocation of inputs to better optimise and protect attainable yields
  • Manufacturing and implementing innovations that will support farmers during their post-harvest activities, including improved quality control on fermentation and drying,
  • Utilising computer vision technologies for transforming subjective assessments of the produce quality for cacao traders

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The pre- and post-harvest services will be paired with an online marketplace that we believe will result in increased traceability and transparency, a better price for farmers, and a more climate-resilient and secure value chain that will benefit all stakeholders.

The COLCO objective to improve productivity within the cacao supply chain is vitally important to the Colombian cacao sector, because cacao has been identified as an ‘peace crop’ following the 2016 Peace Agreement. COLCO will help to improve the viability of farming cacao with a better way of life, encouraging farmers to move away from illicit crops that could end up fuelling the international drug trade.

The current COLCO consortium partners are the Satellite Applications Catapult, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s Manufacturing Technology Centre, CABI, and WeatherSafe in the UK, and Colombian Cacao Company (CCC), Croper, Dextera, Fedecacao, Grupo Nutresa, Netux, and Ruta-N in Colombia.

We are now looking forward to planning and delivering our next phrase of activity and bringing new partners into COLCO. If you are interested in discussing COLCO and potentially helping us to deliver change for Colombian cacao, please contact Mark Jarman (mark.jarman@sa.catapult.org.uk), Head of Agriculture at the Satellite Applications Catapult.​

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