2010 RFID Journal Award: RFID Helps Ensure That Special Cup of Joe

Almacafe, the warehousing subsidiary of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, tracks specialty coffee beans to better compete in the global market.
By Jennifer Zaino
The RFID project is a jumping-off point to another business opportunity for Almacafé: sourcing its solution to others in the java business. The Federation authorized Almacafé to promote the use of its traceability model to the coffee industry outside Colombia.


Carlos Velasco, head trader of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia
"During one of the yearly exhibitions organized by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, we made contact with an American roaster who trades with Colombia and other origins, like Tanzania," Rivera says. "We signed a pilot project with them in order to adapt our traceability model to the Tanzanian coffee market, which has logistical and operational characteristics very different from those we have in Colombia." The project, conceived in 2008, has progressed to the point where the technology has been installed.

The RFID system also helps promote Colombian-grown coffee to consumers, Rivera says. The Juan Valdez Café is a coffeehouse chain in Colombia—with coffee shops in the United States, Chile, Ecuador and Spain as well—that promotes and retails Colombian coffee. At these shops, customers can log onto a kiosk, enter the code from a bag of coffee they've purchased—which has been affiliated with the RFID tag from the original sack of coffee used by the grower—and learn about the farm and region their beans came from. Similarly, coffee connoisseurs can confirm that the morning cup of Joe they're sipping at home is special, by visiting the Juan Valdez Café Web site and clicking on the Expert Corner interactive tool.

Overall, the RFID project is "a case of success" not only in its use of the technology but in its addressing "the socio-economic aspects of the coffee community," Rivera says. It inspires confidence in the quality of the product among the businesses that source Colombian coffee while making the coffee growers an active part of the process. RFID technology creates for them an awareness of the value of the product they produce, while enabling the Federation to stay informed about which growers will be paid a premium for their specialty coffee.
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