"This has generated a lot of added value not only to our coffee, but also to the services we offer. It has been very valuable for us because we have someone to share the information generated with: the carbon footprint is a very interesting topic for students and tourists.”
The value of information
Unión Varsán is a family business that works throughout the coffee value chain, from the farm to the cup and beyond. In addition to five coffee producing farms and a coffee mill where they process both their own coffee and that of other producers, they have two coffee shops in the center of the town of Monteverde and offer educational tours to tourists, as well as to groups of university and high school students, both national and international.
Unión Varsán became involved in the Coffee NAMA in 2016. Based on measurements of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the composting processes of the coffee solid wastes were improved to reduce methane emissions, as well as the unpleasant odors generated by this by-product; The company began implementing a project to produce bio-inputs from microorganisms to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers on the farms; solar panels were installed in one of the cafeterias; and substantial improvements were made to the processing equipment, especially the wet pulping system (in Spanish, “chancado húmedo”), in order to reduce water and electricity consumption.
It's not just about reducing emissions
For Carlos Vargas, in charge of processes and quality control, participating in the Coffee NAMA is not only about reducing emissions, but also about adding value to the product and services that the company offers.
For example, the replacement of the wet processing equipment in the coffee mill not only allowed energy savings, but also the reduction of damage to the coffee that was previously caused by using old machinery that was not suitable for processing specialty coffee. Similarly, the information generated through the GHG emissions inventories allowed not only justifying and validating the investments needed to reduce the environmental impact of the production and processing processes, but also adding value to the tourism and educational services offered by the company.
-"This has generated a lot of added value not only to our coffee, but also to the services we offer. It has been very valuable for us because we have someone to share the information generated with: the carbon footprint is a very interesting topic for students and tourists.”
Vargas comments that Unión Varsán's tours have always sought to move away from a simple entertainment approach and focus on providing valuable information to educate people, with an emphasis on presenting and discussing with visitors how economic, environmental and social sustainability can be used to generate value. In this sense, the technical information generated by the Coffee NAMA, besides being very reliable and generating credibility, turns out to be of extreme interest to the people that visit the Unión Varsán model farm, many of whom are university students and professors or other professionals.
This same information is also used by coffee buyers, especially by the client that Unión Varsán has in the United States. This client includes the value added that derive from the actions that the company carries out in pursuit of the sustainability of its processes into the purchase price of the coffee.
"Our client doesn't demand us to have a certification, because they know us, they know what we do, and everything we do is included in the price.”
Despite this, Vargas is clear that in the future the company will have to work on the issue of certifications. In the next 5 years, Unión Varsán expects to triple its production volume and to get buyers in Europe, a very strict market in terms of importing food products. However, thanks in part to the Coffee NAMA and to all the information and improvements in the processes that participation in this initiative has generated, Vargas is confident that Unión Varsán has a very solid foundation to face the new challenges.