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Varacco uses IoT technology to boost coffee output

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By Almira Louise S. Martinez

PHILIPPINE COFFEE company Varacco is helping local farmers use technology to boost output amid problems posed by climate change, aging farmers and outdated farming technologies.

“We are using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology to increase coffee production and biofertilizer,” Varacco Chief Executive Officer and founder Ariestelo A. Asilo said in an interview on June 18.

The technology has also allowed the company to set up a micro-weather station that provides environmental data to help farmers.

“We use these data to help farmers decide what kind of intervention they will do for their coffee farms,” Mr. Asilo told BusinessWorld.

“The intervention could be water in the plant, proper soil testing and the amount of fertilizer needed, cleaning, rejuvenation or trimming to be done in the farm,” he added.

The Philippines is a net coffee importer. In 2020, it produced 60,640 metric tons of coffee.

“In the Philippines, the demand is 160,000 metric tons,” Mr. Asilo said. “So where do we get the balance? We have to import.”

Varacco also built devices that provide impact analyses on coffee farms that are sent to farmers via short message service (SMS).

“We get the data through satellite or broadband,” Mr. Asilo said. “Once we get the data, these are sent to farmers via SMS.

Soil test results are particularly helpful, he said, adding that Varacco teaches coffee farmers how to properly use fertilizer.

The company, which started in 2012 as a “think farm” and aims to become the country’s leading ambassador of liberica or barako coffee, is committed to give back to the coffee community, Mr. Asilo said.

Varacco transitioned into a business after seven years.

“That’s how we started and the purpose of why we started — to help the farmers,” he said. “We want to help them increase production. When we have a production increase, we’ll be able to give them access to the market.”

From coffee farms to coffee drinkers, everyone should help one another to improve the state of coffee production, Varacco co-founder Javier P. Flores told BusinessWorld.

“We help each other to make sure we produce enough locally,” he said. “We’re hoping that we could unite the farmers to do that. We also ensure that their produce gets to the market.”

The company has opened a cafe in Batangas and a kiosk inside SM North Edsa in Quezon City. It will soon open a branch at SM Megamall.

Varacco has also helped about 8,000 local farmers learn about more advanced farming technology, Mr. Asilo said.

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