Coffee from the greenhouse?
Worldwide, almost 10 billion kilograms of coffee are produced every year. Coffee is an important export product, especially for countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Vietnam. Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture and Flower Bulbs of Wageningen University & Research is investigating whether it is possible to grow coffee in greenhouses, to investigate whether the taste and ingredients of the coffee beans can be controlled by cultivation conditions.
About five years ago, WUR conducted its first small-scale trial of growing a coffee bush in a greenhouse. An Arabica cultivar was investigated for this. This variant of the coffee bush is (unlike Robusta variants) a self-pollinator. This research showed that it is indeed possible to make a coffee bush bloom in a greenhouse, and eventually also harvest berries. The crop grows well in a relatively dark, humid and warm climate. It was striking that in the greenhouse the flowering period lasted longer than in the open air: it was possible to extend that period from April to November, so more than half a year.
With a longer flowering period, a higher production is probably possible. But the amount of beans will not be the main distinguishing value of coffee beans from a greenhouse. It may be possible to influence the taste and/or the composition of the coffee beans by using growing conditions and adapted nutrient solutions. This question is one of the questions examined within the PPP Key Processes, in which there is collaboration with a large coffee producer. The PPP Key Processes is financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and various companies involved.