Digital Agronomy: Intelligent Crop Management for Better Coffee
Understanding the Digitization of Agriculture on Our Farms by Alec Lee
We believe that an experienced team backed by innovative technology grows better coffee. The GCC has taken this to heart at every level of its operations, and today we’ll share how our agronomy team monitors the climate and soil conditions of the farms, tracks the development of our coffee lots, and coordinates farm maintenance tasks in a way that no other Colombian coffee farm does.
Leading our production team is Marino Restrepo, a lifelong coffee professional specializing in agronomy. He looked to xFarm as a comprehensive farming solution for GCC’s operations. In short, the platform collects, logs, and presents a variety of data that informs our team of farm conditions and trends that ultimately allow us to make better decisions when it comes to growing good coffee.
Imagine 930 football fields full of coffee trees. Now, overlay that on mountainsides and you have an idea of the GCC’s farms! Can you imagine being in charge of ALL of that coffee?
Marino does just that. He’s an old school character that seems to have an answer for any coffee question you throw at him. However, even with Marino’s expertise and the support of our production team, we were operating with blind spots on the farms:
How does the climate of Gabriela differ from Gualanday across the valley?
What are temperature swings like at 1500 meters vs. lots at 2000 meters?
What is the soil acidity and moisture content in July vs. harvest in October?
What’s the best week for fertilizing on El León?
Is the climate right for sowing new trees on La Grecia?
These are things we want to know. Experience and observation guide agronomic decisions, but hard data provides clear answers.
Herman works with our agronomy technicians and mayordomos (farm managers) through xFarm to plan and execute day-to-day work with the operations teams. xFarm eliminates confusion between teams, creates transparency for everyone helping with production, and allows us to track our agronomic work and constantly assess its effectiveness.
The final piece of xFarm is really exciting for those of us who geek out on the nuances of individual coffees. Weather sensors are installed around the farms to collect a variety of climatic data: temperature, winds, humidity, soil pH, and rainfall. This network builds weather patterns in the Salgar region and gives clear insight into the microclimates on each farm. We’ll be able to explore cup quality lot by lot, and then consider correlations between climate and quality. xFarm will play an integral role in our lot separation process as we come to understand the quality our farms can give us over the coming harvest. More on this once we can report back with results.
Farming coffee at scale is an enormous challenge that requires adaptive methods for the unique conditions of each farm. We found a solution in the xFarm platform that brings a plethora of insights to our agronomy team and allows everyone in production to work smarter as we continue our journey of becoming a better coffee producer.