Coffee factory goes green with eco pulper machine

The new eco-pulping machine at Kiandu Coffee Factory. [Amos Kiarie, Standard]

Coffee is a major cash crop in the country but the effects of climate change have caused a decline in production.

Besides erratic weather, the coffee sector exacerbates climate change by emitting greenhouse gases at different stages of the supply chain.

Brewing coffee using traditional pulping machines that rely on diesel and electricity contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions through the combustion of diesel fuels that release carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere, while the reliance on electricity sourced from non-renewable energy sources further compounds the environmental impact.

In Kenya, the coffee industry plays a significant role in the economy, with about 70 per cent of the produce from small farms accounting for about 75 per cent of the land under coffee production.

According to estimates from 2012, Kenya is home to approximately 150,000 coffee farmers. However, a report on the Evaluation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions along the Small-Holder Coffee Supply Chain in Kenya shows that farm production levels of coffee had a highly negative impact on the carbon footprint.

“The main greenhouse gas emission hotspot at farm level across all the levels of production was the inputs of organic and inorganic nitrogen at 94 per cent,” the report states.

Coffee processing uses large volumes of water for washing, pulping, fermenting, and rinsing coffee beans.

The high water demand for processing coffee can strain local water supplies, leading to ecosystem degradation, reduced water availability for surrounding communities and conflicts over water usage.

Wastewater from coffee processing can also pollute water bodies if not treated properly, impacting the environment.

A report by the University of Nairobi (UoN) states that it is estimated that coffee processing generates about 9 million cubic metres of wastewater and 600,000 tons of husks annually in the East Africa region.

Traditional coffee roasting methods often involve large roasting machines powered by fossil fuels or electricity. This energy consumption during roasting contributes to carbon emissions, increasing the carbon footprint of coffee production.

Inefficient roasting practices can result in unnecessary energy wastage and higher greenhouse gas emissions.

To combat the effects of climate change, Kiandu Coffee Factory has embraced green energy to boost the global competitiveness of the produce.

The factory manager, Albert Kariuki said the shift to green energy is a win-win scenario as it benefits the environment and the coffee business through the reduction of their carbon footprint while cutting down on operational costs.

“We are very happy to shift to the use of the eco pulper machine, which will help minimise waste and water usage. The solar dryer will reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption during the drying process, while the metallic dry table will reduce dependency on non-renewable resources and contribute to environmental conservation efforts. Additionally, farmers have been trained in organic coffee farming practices, and we believe this will enable our coffee to fetch higher market prices,” he said.

Kariuki believes the move will save farmers more than Sh 200,000 previously spent on electricity and water bills.

"As the factory embraces renewable resources and slashes operational costs, it's a win-win situation; the air is cleaner, our land remains fertile, and farmers will profit, green energy has truly been a game-changer for our community,” he said.

Takama Kenya Limited CEO Peter Ndumia said that the system installed in the factory has 47 kilowatts that will run every process involved in coffee pulping.

Eng Ndumia noted that the eco pulping machine will help avert 5,560 gallons of carbon emissions yearly and will also aid the factory in reducing electricity costs by over Sh 2 million and cutting water usage from 15 litres of water to obtain 1kg of clean green bean coffee to 2 litres.

“The eco pulping machine efficiently separates coffee pulp from beans using minimal water and energy, as coffee cherries pass through the machine, it gently removes the outer layer, reducing water waste and environmental impact. This sustainable process ensures high-quality coffee production while conserving resources,” he said.

The eco-friendly machine prevents losses and conserves the environment for a sustainable future.

“We now expect high profits as the money saved on electricity will be used to remunerate us. Our coffee will compete internationally due to its quality. We will preserve trees and reduce emissions," Mary Wanjiru, a farmer said.

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