Stock Groups

Lab-grown coffee and sustainable ways growing coffee


Workers separate coffee cherries in a Guaxupe (southwest of Brazil’s Minas Gerais state) during the harvest. This was Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

Getty Images| Bloomberg | Getty Images

Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world — but the surge in demand is threatening the environment, prompting activists and scientists to look for sustainable ways to produce coffee.

Coffee is usually processed in a wet-milling method that requires large amounts of freshwater to wash and de-pulp the beans. Then the coffee is dried, roasted, shipped and brewed — each of which uses energy,” said Bambi Semroc, senior vice president of the Center for Sustainable Lands and Waters at Conservation International.

According to the The, over 60% of coffee production has increased in the past 30 year due to rising demand. International Coffee Organization.

Research shows increased coffee production has been linked to deforestation and high energy consumption.

Brazil, which is the biggest coffee-producing country in the world saw deforestation. Amazon rainforest reach a 15-year highAccording to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (NISPR), the figure is.

An estimated 13,235 square kilometers  — equivalent to 2,429 football fields — was lost between August 2020 and July 2021, representing An increase of 22% over the previous year.

A large amount of water is required to make coffee. To produce just 125ml of coffee it takes 140 liters. According to the Water Footprint Network.

However, climate change is also a threat to the coffee industry.

Brazil saw a series of droughts and frosts in June this year. This caused the prices for Arabica coffee to reach a seven-year high.

Commodity experts predict that prices will continue to rise “given the current instability of global markets as well as uncertainties around next year’s outputs of dominant coffee producers — Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia,” said Semroc, from the Center for Sustainable Lands and Waters at Conservation International.

Lab-grown coffee, anyone?

Scientists in Finland are trying to come up with a sustainable, lab-grown alternative for the next cup of coffee — but the technology for producing it is still very costly.

The VTT Technical Research Centre of FinlandCoffee cells were successfully grown in a bioreactor by cellular agriculture. This is a way to reduce the environmental impact of coffee production.

Lab-grown coffee from the research center eliminates deforestation. The process also uses less water as researchers can use recycled water to create their bioreactors.

People want coffee to feel good about buying.

Heiko Rischer

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

The other advantage of coffee is its ability to be grown at any time under controlled light, temperature and oxygen conditions. This eliminates the risk associated with supply volatility.

Heiko Rischer from the institute’s plant biotechnology department said, “We are not coffee producers but we would like to work together and collaborate with parties who have the vision and expertise to bring this product to market.”

He said, “It also needs significant investment because it all approval process… requires not only time but also expensive exercise.”

Rischer explained that this innovation removes coffee’s lengthy transportation from its country of origin to its destination country.

VTT’s cell agriculture method produces coffee cells (right), and roasted coffee.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

He explained to CNBC that he is not using coffee beans for a start material but rather a frozen powder that he produces in his lab.

The powdered coffee can then be made the same as regular coffee.

Heiko estimated that VTT would need to wait at least four more years for VTT’s coffee-grown in labs to be approved by regulators. But there’s already been strong interest from Finland, the biggest coffee marketer on the globe.

Heiko explained that there had been resistance in the past to GMO food. He was therefore positively shocked when the public showed interest in coffee. “Coffee is a luxurious product. People want to be free to make their own decisions,” Heiko added.

Insufficient investments

Conservation International and World Coffee Research both have programs which aim to increase coffee production and improve the investment on existing farms.

Coffee research can be a secondary priority when there are more urgent humanitarian needs. World Coffee Research’s CEO Jennifer Long said that coffee is delivered to many countries of low income, however they have not been able invest in the ways that will allow their farmers to minimize risks.

You can only make the best single investment in your future by investing in agricultural development.

Jennifer Long

World Coffee Research, CEO

Cop26 is the United Nations Global Climate Summit. More than 100 global leaders pledged to work together in November. end deforestation by 2030. To encourage sustainable farming, they are also trying to reform agricultural policies.

Experts warned that a shortage of investments in agriculture research and development may lead to volatile future prices.

Coffee production makes up a large share of export revenues for many developing countries — if investments in research and innovation are not made, “the consequence of the volatility in the coffee market can be very pronounced for farmers,” she added.

According to the International Poverty Line, at least 5 million of the 12.5 Million smallholder coffee producers live below $3.20 per day. EnveritasThe non-profit organization assisting small-scale coffee growers to find sustainable solutions.

“Investments in agricultural development, with a focused dedication to agricultural research and technology, are the most important singular investments you can make,” said Long, pointing out that agricultural-specific challenges often leave small-scale farmers vulnerable.

Long stated that it is important for agricultural investment to achieve food security goals despite current global challenges.

“Trees can be a great place to start, because they absorb carbon so well,” she said. It is important to modify agricultural systems to include more trees in agroforestry.