For all the talk of sustainability in the specialty coffee world, many of the loudest cries come from the demand side of the equation. It’s easy, and reductive, for those in consuming countries to call for more sustainable farming practices, completely divorced from how they will affect coffee producers, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet in coffee’s unsustainable economic model. But there’s a new, free tool with some major institutional support up and down the supply chain, looking to empower smallholder farmers to take the lead in mitigating their own carbon footprint. The Cool Farm Tool is a free online resource that allows farmers to measure their own carbon emissions as well as see actionable changes they can make in order to reduce their footprint, while perhaps even fetching a higher price for coffee.
The Cool Farm Tool project is the work of The Cool Farm Alliance and was brought to the coffee producing world via the combine efforts of Cooperative Coffees, Root Capital, Sustainable Food Lab, The Chain Collaborative (founded by Sprudge Twenty alum Nora Burkey), and six coffee cooperatives across Central America including: Manos Campesinas in Guatemala, Café Orgánico Marcala (COMSA) in Honduras, and Sol y Café, CENFROCAFE, Norandino, and CAC Pangoa in Peru. Per a press release, the Cool Farm Tool “is a digital carbon calculation application designed to enable farmers to track and understand the environmental impact of their production and determine the best organic practices for climate resiliency and crop health.” Completely free for farmers to use, the tool consists of a series of drop-down menus that allow producers to input their farming practices and “receive immediate feedback on their environmental impact.” Producers can then input potential farm-level changes the can make to see how it affects their net carbon captures.
Originally developed at the University of Aberdeen, the Cool Farm Tool is currently in the pilot phase, with 250 smallholder farmers expected to benefit from it use over the course of the next three years. The team behind Cool Farm Tool hopes that it will be rolled out to all 12,500 producers (part of the six coffee cooperatives taking part in the pilot) before being made available to some 25 million smallholder farmers worldwide.
The aim of the tool goes beyond sustainability in the ecological sense, but economically as well. Once available at scale, the Cool Farm Tool “will allow the entire supply chain to assume climate action by placing a value on individual farms that are implementing sustainable agricultural practices.” In short, it will allow producers to charge a premium for their proven sustainability practices.
For those looking to learn more about the Cool Farm Tool, the Cool Farm Alliance will be taking part in the Digital Coffee Future webinar series on April 8th to offer more details and insights into the project. To register for the webinar, visit the Digital Coffee Future official website.
Since reducing coffee’s carbon footprint is a team effort and the onus for doing so cannot only be on the farmer, we look forward to Cool Tools representing the entire chain: the Cool Mill/Storage Tool, Cool Exporter Tool, the Cool Importer Tool, the Cool Roaster Tool, the Cool Cafe Tool, the Cool Coffee Conference & Exposition Tool, the Cool Latte Art Throwdown Tool, the Cool NGO Tool and ultimately the Cool Consumer Tool in years to come.
Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.