LEÓN, Nicaragua, Aug. 6, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Today, most of the world's roughly 25 million coffee farmers sell their unroasted coffee beans to middlemen brokers who pay them about a dollar per pound for coffee, that once roasted, is sold to consumers for upwards of $20 per pound, and as much as $4 per cup in coffee shops.
With demand for the more-costly-to-grow "specialty grade" gourmet coffee continuing to outpace supply and a plant fungus called roya (or coffee rust) decimating crops across much of Central America and Southern Mexico, the supply chain that has long been considered inequitable for the millions of smallholder coffee farmers, is fast becoming unsustainable.
A newly launched company named Vega Coffee believes a more efficient and sustainable model - one that shortens the supply chain and sells direct to consumer online - "is not only possible, but inevitable, as more and more coffee farmers gain access to the internet thanks to the spread of mobile broadband within less economically developed nations like Nicaragua" according to Noushin Ketabi, one of the companies three co-founders.
So they launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to fund the pilot for their "farmer roasted" coffee subscription marketplace, and in less than a week, surpassed their goal of $20,000.
Vega Coffee co-founder Robert Terenzi, a former attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Silicon Valley, sums up the business model: "By setting up low-cost, environmentally-friendly roasting stations where coffee is grown and milled, training farmers to roast and package their own beans, and selling directly to customers through our website, we're able to pay farmers more, charge customers less, and earn a fair profit ourselves."
Over the next several months, the Vega founders will be focused on optimizing each step in their supply chain, from managing in-country training and production, to navigating import and export regulations, to making sure coffee arrives on-time to customer homes across the US. Expansion into other regions and countries comes next, and their vision is for hundreds, if not thousands of farms and cooperatives selling their freshly roasted beans via Vega's online marketplace.
"We think there's a real opportunity to do for coffee farmers what services like Etsy did for arts and crafters and Uber did for drivers - connect producers with consumers and enable them to transact directly with one another" says Vega Coffee co-founder, William DeLuca.
And with over 25 million coffee farmers worldwide, the team believes both the immediate and long-term benefits of their model and potential impact extend far beyond the farm: "the additional income our farmers receive not only goes back into the care and quality of their crops, but also a better education for their children, greater access to healthcare for their communities, and the ability to build a better future."
But for now, the founders have the Vega Coffee Kickstarter campaign to wrap up, a stretch goal of $40,000 to reach and a message that "the future of coffee is farmer roasted" to spread.
Vega Coffee is on a mission to build a better, more sustainable cup of coffee. Based in León, Nicaragua and founded by Noushin Ketabi, Rob Terenzi and Will DeLuca, Vega enables coffee drinkers to buy freshly roasted coffee from the farmers and cooperatives who grow it.
SOURCE Vega Coffee