IIT-Kharagpur is developing a coffee harvesting machine that can cut labor requirements in half

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur is developing mechanized coffee harvesting that can reduce labor dependency by about 50-60 percent, Coffee Board CEO and Secretary KG Jagadeesha said on Wednesday. Addressing  members of the United Planters Association of South India (Upasi) in Coonoor, Jagadeesha said the prototype harvester has been adapted for Indian conditions. In India, coffee is mostly grown in the shade on hilly terrain, where mechanization has so far been a challenge. 

 The main challenges 

 Rising labor costs and labor shortages have become a major challenge for  coffee farmers in  recent years. Labor costs account for about 65 percent of the cost of growing coffee. Reducing costs and improving value realization will help farmers earn a decent living from  coffee farming. Jagadeesha urged farmers to get out of their comfort zone and consider mechanization and replacement of old bushes in the next five years, which can improve yields. About 90 percent of the farm’s coffee production  comes from 40 percent of the plants, and the remaining 60 percent from the 40- to 50-year-old plants that yield less after reaching their economic age. In the case of Arabica plants, the yield begins to decrease after 40 years and in Robusta after 50 years. The coffee board has proposed a national replanting policy for  traditional coffee growers in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which is awaiting government approval. 

“Invest more time” 

  Jagadeesha stated that Indian coffees are the best and asked farmers to invest more time and effort in improving the quality of coffee. On branding Indian coffees, the CEO of the Coffee Board  told the industry that the effort should be social. “We all need to come together, Indians should speak highly of our coffee”, India, the fifth largest exporter of coffee, will host the World Coffee Conference (WCC 2023) in Bengaluru on September 25-28, where more than 2,000 participants are expected. The event is expected to introduce Indian coffee to  global buyers.

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