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WeatherSafe Coffee

Credit: Satellite Applications Catapult

A mobile application to update Rwandan coffee farmers with alerts based on weather information.

Overview

WeatherSafe has attracted interest from all areas of the coffee industry from science and Government to major exporters, and has built some key relationships with firms such as Union Hand Roasted Coffee. By leveraging these connections the WeatherSafe team gathered insights into the climate and weather related problems experienced in the coffee market. Humidity, temperature, shading grade, soil moisture together with other environmental factors all contribute to determine the final quality of the coffee. Increasing global pressure exists to develop an agricultural sector more resilient to climate change which is increasing the effects and expanding the areas affected by coffee pests and diseases.

Impact

In December 2012, the Satellite Applications Catapult held one of its Space Solutions Hackathon events as part of its aim to nurture innovation within the space industry and to provide a venue for British entrepreneurs to come together, share ideas and help to see them through to commercialisation.

During the event, Francesco Liucci, who has a background in international relations and economics, previously involved in academic research and start-up projects – joined David Mills, experienced IT manager, and his brother Graham – more than 10 years record as developer and software architect – to develop the WeatherSafe Coffee App as a solution for one of the challenges posed to improve the Rwanda Meteorology Agency website. During the two-day event, they developed the initial prototype-concept of WeatherSafe Coffee, a mobile application to update Rwandan coffee farmers with alerts based on weather information.

The WeatherSafe Coffee team won the competition and the project quickly gained momentum by receiving very positive feedback from researchers, commercial and institutional representatives who have welcomed the App.

Interesting facts gained from their research:

•             Coffee is the second most valuable commodity in the world second only to oil

•             It is estimated that between 10% and 16% of the world’s crops are lost to disease outbreaks

•             The life cycle of one of the most devastating coffee diseases, the Coffee Leaf Rust, is up to 10 years. However, precise and timely information of outbreaks’ location and severity, combined with careful farming practices can bring the plants back to a healthy condition in two to three years

•             Rwanda’s coffee export revenue accounted for $60.9m in 2012, £12m deriving from specialty coffee

•             In Rwanda, pests and disease, in particular Coffee Leaf Rust, antestia bug and coffee borer, every year reduce coffee yields by up to 50%

•             Many pests and diseases are stimulated by a change in temperature and humidity

•             Scientific projections have considered the possibility of coffee production extinction by 2080, due to the climate change’s threats and the narrow genetic diversity of the existing coffee plants

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