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Enveritas’ technology lets small growers tap into the market for sustainable coffee

Demand for sustainable coffee is growing, a boon for socially conscious coffee lovers — but many small growers are missing out because they lack the ability to verify that their coffee beans are grown using sustainable labor and eco-friendly practices. In fact, verification is often accessible only to large coffee estates or cooperatives. Enveritas wants to change that. The nonprofit, which recently completed Y Combinator’s accelerator program, uses geospatial analysis to make the process more efficient, enabling it to offer free verification to smallholder farms. Enveritas’ goal is to end poverty in the coffee sector by 2030. Before founding Enveritas in 2016, CEO David Browning and head of operations Carl Cervone worked at TechnoServe, a nonprofit that serves businesses in developing economies. Browning led TechnoServe’s global coffee practice, while Cervone advised coffee growers in Africa, Asia and Latin America about sustainability trends. Browning tells TechCrunch that TechnoServe’s coffee team spent a lot of time working with smallharder farmers, many of whom don’t have access to sustainability verification because their farms are too remote or small. The typical coffee grower served by Enveritas has less than two hectares of land, lives on less than $2 a day and relies on cash crops for their family’s income. “The existing solutions work well for large estates and it can also be effective for farmers organized into cooperatives, but many of the world’s coffee farmers are smallholder farmers and not organized into cooperatives,” Browning explains. “For those farmers, the existing solutions can be more difficult to access.” Part of the reason is because many verification solutions rely on field workers who visit farms and track sustainability standards using pen and paper, a time-consuming and costly process. To develop a more efficient and scalable system, Enveritas uses geospatial and machine learning to identify coffee farms through satellite imagery and monitor for issues like deforestation. Though it still relies on local partners to visit farms and confirm that sustainability standards are being followed, its technology enables Enveritas to provide verification services for free. Enveritas checks for 30 standards, which it divides into three categories: social, environmental and…

Bellwether Coffee raises $10M to bring more transparency to the coffee industry

Caffeine-infused meal replacement products may be all the rage among techies, but a good ol’ cup of joe is still the choice morning beverage for most of us. To capitalize on America’s insatiable coffee habit, Bellwether Coffee has raised a $10 million Series A and begun selling its zero-emissions commercial roaster and online coffee bean marketplace to cafés and grocers. The funding follows a $6 million seed round in 2016. Congruent Ventures led the round for the Berkeley, Calif.-based startup, with participation from FusionX Ventures, Tandem Capital, New Ground Ventures, Hardware Club, XN Ventures and SolarCity founders Pete and Lyndon Rive. As part of the deal, Pete Rive has joined the startup’s board, as has Congruent managing partner Josh Posamentier. Bellwether was founded by Ricardo Lopez, who serves as the company’s head of product innovation, in 2013.  Bellwether CEO Nathan Gilliland says the company sits at the nexus of software and hardware. The latter can be a tougher sell to VCs, though Gilliland said its latest round was oversubscribed. The company has just begun leasing its $1,000 per month ventless, electric coffee roaster to cafés, grocers and other businesses. As part of the monthly fee, Bellwether customers get access to its online bean marketplace, which they can use to order beans from a revolving list of 20-some coffee farms curated by the team at Bellwether. Retailers and coffee consumers also can tip farmers directly via Bellwether. Gilliland explained that could be a game changer for the industry. Coffee farmers, he said, earn roughly 75 cents per pound of coffee sold. If a dollar is tipped on every pound of coffee, a farmer could double their revenue. Tracing where the beans in your daily brew originated from, whether that be Guatemala, Ethiopia, Colombia or another one of the top producers of beans, can be difficult. Bellwether’s marketplace, which lets retailers browse coffee farms based on factors, including whether the farm is organically certified or woman-owned, is intended to add a bit of transparency to an often opaque business. “We live in such a connected world now it really makes sense to enable consumers…

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