Manufacturing Technology Centre and the COLCO Project
Bridging the gap between universities and industry, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) uses research and development, and innovation to address challenges across a range of industry sectors.
The Colombian cacao sector, like many sectors globally suffers from a lack of digitisation across the supply chain. The COLCO project, funded by the Newton Fund, sought to address these challenges through a set of technology interventions and socially focused sustainable business models. As part of the collaboration with the Colombian cacao sector, the MTC approached B13 Technology to deliver a set of innovative solutions with challenging requirements, that aimed to improve the cacao fermentation and drying process, and trading process, delivering traceability, transparency, and trust between cacao farmers and traders while running on a simple mobile phone application.
B13 Technology’s solution
We created a set of specialised Spanish language mobile phone applications for COLCO. One for the farmers to help manage the fermentation and drying process, and one for the traders to help manage their quality assessment process.
Using data from an array of low-cost sensors and a software interface developed by the MTC, we created a user-friendly interface that took the farmers step by step through the optimum process of fermenting cacao by tracking key metrics such as temperature and humidity to help manage the process as well as enabling cacao batch traceability, and managing the maintenance of the sensor nodes.
We were able to make use of a wholly novel camera-phone based application that used a vision app with an AI engine at its core to evaluate the cacao bean quality independently and transparently. The app was designed with ease-of-use in mind and was developed in-line with national cacao assessment standards.
To enable fast development at a low cost, we used a tech stack consisting of Angular, Flutter, NestJs, MongoDB and AWS to develop a high performing, resilient and easy to manage app.
B13 Technology is a dynamic, supportive and enthusiastic partner to the COLCO programme. They were able to understand and handle the ambiguous nature and complexity of the project. Agile development is at the core of their operations, making them an ideal project partner able to adapt to meet the needs of this challenging and evolving project.
Dr Maz Ahmad • Manufacturing Technology Centre
Business Impact and Future Development
This is an ongoing R&D project but it has reaped excellent results so far.
The apps are helping:
Farmers, cooperatives, and associations to better manage cacao fermentation processes, improving the consistency of cacao quality
Traders to improve their purchasing processes, increasing traceability as well as trust through the supply chain
Make cacao a more attractive and accessible crop for the next generation of farmers thanks to the introduction of technology, which it is hoped will grow the sector and making the global cacao supply chain more resilient
This is an iterative project that is continually tested and developed by the users in Colombia. After 18 months of user testing and evaluation, the app is about to undergo another iteration of its development.
In the future, it is hoped the software solutions developed in COLCO become open-source and sustained through socially focused business models that empower smallholder farmers, build transparent and resilient supply chains creating traceable products that distribute wealth equitably.