Coffee from the greenhouse?

Each year, nearly ten billion kilogrammes of coffee are produced worldwide. Coffee is a significant export commodity, particularly for Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Vietnam. Wageningen University & Research’s Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture and Flower Bulbs is investigating whether it is possible to grow coffee in greenhouses and whether cultivation conditions can influence the taste and composition of the coffee beans.

WUR conducted its first small-scale trial of growing a coffee bush in a glasshouse about five years ago. This was investigated using an Arabica cultivar. Unlike Robusta varieties, this coffee bush is self-pollinating. This research established that it is possible to grow a coffee bush in a glasshouse and harvest berries. The crop thrives in a climate that is relatively dark, humid, and warm. It was remarkable how much longer the flowering period lasted in the glasshouse than in the open air: it was possible to extend it from April to November, or more than half a year.

Increased production is almost certainly possible with a longer flowering period. However, the quantity of beans produced will not be the primary factor in determining whether coffee beans are grown in a glasshouse or not. By utilising appropriate growing conditions and nutrient solutions, it may be possible to influence the taste and/or composition of coffee beans. This is one of the questions being investigated as part of the PPP Key Processes, which involve collaboration with a large coffee producer. The PPP Key Processes is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality, as well as a number of participating companies.

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