COLCO is funded by the UK Newton Fund (channelled through Innovate UK), which supports welfare and sustainable development through science and innovation among countries receiving official development assistance. The project is being led by the Satellite Applications Catapult.
Project team members at the MTC are looking specifically at fermentation and drying processes, which are vital to bean quality. More than 70% of cocoa bean flavour results from fermentation. MTC experts are also working with the cocoa and chocolate supply chains to establish better quality assessment of the beans as part of the journey to commercialisation.
The project team has spent time in the field getting to understand the farming, harvesting and post-harvest processes. Workshops have already been staged with local partners. MTC technology manager Alejandra Matamoros says the team has been working to ensure that farmers can achieve consistency in their processes, which would benefit them when beans go to market.
"We want to ensure that smallholder farmers get a better deal, which will improve the quality of life for them and their families, and will have a socio-economic effect on their region and the Colombian economy as a whole,” she says. “We are not just interested in deploying technology – that would be easy – we want to make sure that our impact is positive and lasting.”