We recently had the opportunity to visit the Starbucks experimental coffee farm close to our own. Part of the work of the 600 acre Hacienda Alsacia farm is to work with local farmers as well as farmers around the world to develop means to deal with coffee diseases affecting coffee production. In particular the coffee disease often referred to as rust which has decimated production over the last few years in a number of countries.
We had in opportunity to spend time with Carlos Mario Rodriguez, the Starbucks Director for Global Agronomy. Carlos works on the research and development side helping develop highly disease resistant trees. But just as important for Starbucks, the coffee still needs to maintain a great cup (it tastes really good).
During our day trip, Carlos brought us around the fields and explained the process of creating grafted plants. A hundred years ago, with European grapevines, diseases were decimating the crops So grafting was initiated to graft many of the best tasting European vines onto disease resistant root stock from the United States. Likewise, Starbucks does a lot of grafting with coffee lots. At Hacienda Alsacia, the rows are carefully labeled to indicate the variety of plant. It seemed like the rows of different varieties went on forever.
Carlos has been incredibly gracious with his time even after out visit. Any questions we have, he promptly answers. He even provided us with a software tool that Starbucks created in conjunction with The Earthwatch Institute and the Instituto del Café de Costa Rica (ICAFE). The tool helps us determine what nutrients are needed based on yearly soil analysis.
You can even visit in the future, In March 2017, Starbucks announced plans to develop a visitor center at Hacienda Alsacia.