Back to

the Roots

The Melitta Group is working on ways to reuse organic waste, such as the pulp of coffee cherries, throughout the coffee supply chain. The Peixoto family is participating in the project and reports on their experiences.

 

“We love to learn and are always open to new ideas.”

The Peixotos' coffee farm is a real family business. Together with his wife and brothers, Roberto Peixoto has built up a great business. The family runs an 18-hectare coffee farm in the Brazilian province of Minas Gerais. That involves a lot of hard work. Even though it is a lot of work, I am proud of what we manage to do every day. Working together with my family makes it more fun, commented Roberto Peixoto. 

His wife Neide Peixoto has been deeply involved in the family business since 1999. My father always told me that the coffee business was not for women. I proved him wrong,” she said. Harvest time is the most exhausting time of the year. One person stays in the drying yard to turn the coffee cherries harvested the day before and to make sure they dry evenly. Everyone else is involved in picking the fruit from the coffee plants.   

Climate change impacts harvests

Despite many years of hard work and experience in coffee farming, the family business has faced mounting challenges in recent years. They are increasingly concerned about climate change. On top of that, the price of fertilisers is rising. “These are problems that are impossible to calculate, and they significantly affect our work and our income. A period of frost followed by a long drought in 2021 caused crop failures this year," explained Roberto Peixoto.

When they heard about the ‘Back to the Roots’ project that the Melitta Group is running together with the Hanns R. Neumann Foundation in the Brazilian region of Minas Gerais, the family was immediately interested. “We are open to new methods and discoveries that help us in our work,” declared Roberto Peixoto.
The project is about finding ways to reuse organic waste in coffee production, such as the pulp from coffee cherries, as fertiliser. The aim is not only to eliminate the need for chemical fertilisers and thereby increase the profitability of coffee growing, but also to improve the quality of the soil and make the plants more robust and resistant to climate fluctuations. To achieve this, the Melitta Group and the Hanns R. Neumann Foundation are working together with Brazilian waste management experts and scientists, including from the renowned Universidade Federal de Lavras (UFLA).

A new perspective

on organic waste

Even though the project is not yet complete, the family has already successfully reorganised some processes in their business. We now look at what we used to regard as waste in a completely different way. We no longer see it as something we need to get rid of, but rather we try to make use of it and get some benefit from it, commented Neide Peixoto. The family has had good experience with the production of biochar. They make this using wood from old coffee plants that can no longer be used for cultivation. The project also enables us to exchange ideas with other coffee farmers who are facing similar challenges. We find that very useful, said Roberto Peixoto. Some problems remain however, turning the compost mixed with charcoal by hand is very laborious and difficult. Ideally, this should be done with a tractor, but the family does not own one

Learning from one another’s experience

After using their home-made fertiliser for the first time, Roberto Peixoto is optimistic: “We have noticed changes in our plants. They look greener and have kept their leaves despite the long drought.” Soil analysis confirmed this impression and revealed a high concentration of organic matter. So, the Peixoto family's coffee plants are supplied with plenty of nutrients and need less chemical fertiliser. “If these first positive results are confirmed over the longer term, I look forward to passing on this new insight to other coffee farmers. After all, others should also benefit from what we have learned,” remarked Neide Peixoto.

Back to

the Roots

In Brazil, the Melitta Group is working with the Hanns R. Neumann Foundation (HRNS) to identify and exploit opportunities to reuse organic waste, such as the pulp of coffee cherries, throughout the coffee supply chain. Coffee farming, after all, generates large amounts of this waste.

Instead of being recycled as compost, it is often simply disposed of and further pollutes the environment. Together with HRNS, the Brazilian university UFLA and local coffee farmers, solutions are being developed to put the waste to good use, significantly reduce the use of artificial fertilisers and make coffee farming more profitable.

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