Demetria, a startup that promises to automate the analysis and grading of coffee beans, came out of stealth yesterday and announced that it has raised $3 million in seed funding. The round was led by Celeritas and a group of private investors including Mercantil Colpatria, the investment arm of Grupo Colpatria.
As coffee beans move through the supply chain, their quality has traditionally been judged by “cupping.” In this process, a human with proper certifications selects samples of beans and judges them based on factors like aroma, acidity and flavor. As you can imagine, this process is slow, wasteful, and because it’s done by experts, not globally available.
It also means that coffee bean quality and pricing is a subjective process, which can incorporate any number of human biases that can affect the prices paid to farmers and across the supply chain.
Demetria aims to automate this process by using near-infrared scanning and cloud-based artificial intelligence analysis to develop “digital fingerprints” of coffee beans. As green coffee beans move through the supply chain, they are analyzed with a near-infrared scanner to look for biochemical markers to match a bean’s profile with an industry standard set of quality metrics.
This means that bean quality can be quickly assessed with a handheld scanner and mobile phone. What’s more, beans do not have to be taken out of the supply chain to tested via cupping. Instead, they stay, reducing waste.
We’ve seen this type of AI-based scanning in the food supply chain elsewhere. Most recently, Driscoll’s announced that it was using Consumer Physics’ SCiO technology to scan berries for sweetness. Consumer Physics’ handheld scanner is one of the tools being used by Demetria.
In its press announcement yesterday, Demetria said it has successfully completed a pilot with Carcafe, the Colombian coffee division of agricultural commodity traders Volcafe/ED&F Man. Demetria said it is also working with Federación Nacional de Cafeteros (FNC), the Colombian National Federation for Coffee Growers, to develop apps that help farmers and their transaction points in the supply chain control and track bean quality, and price.
Technologies like Demetria’s can hopefully bring more fairness to the food supply chain by speeding up the process and standardizing the analysis so everyone gets paid a fair price.