What is your background briefly?

Before starting Moyee Coffee Ireland I worked for about 20 years in the tech and international aid industries.

I studied business and economics back in the early 1990’s and have worked in the tech and international aid industries ever since living in Dublin, London and Belfast and working on what were at the time cutting edge technologies like video conferencing and the mobile internet.

Around 2001-2002 while living in London I answered an ad in the Irish Times from am Irish priest seeking help setting up a charity to tackle the HIV crisis in Ethiopia. This experience sparked a career move into the NGO space and I’ve broadly worked with NGOs ever since mostly fundraising for projects in Africa such as disaster relief, clean water, sustainable farming and education and later as a social entrepreneur (in 2009 I cofounded MyGoodPoints an online charity platform aimed at converting unused loyalty points into micro cash donations for charity projects). This work took me to New York for a few years but I returned to Ireland in 2014 when I really started to learn about our food supply chains and in particular the global coffee industry.

Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?

I think a move from tech to aid to global sustainable supply chains makes sense. I’ve always been fascinated by the potential technology has to level the playing field around the world – to give everybody on our planet access to the same information, the same knowledge and the same global markets

1 min pitch for what you are doing now?

Visiting as many tech and creative companies as I can, spending early mornings at their offices running tasting sessions, serving them up their morning coffees, speciality coffee from the mountains and forests of Ethiopia that is grown and roasted in Ethiopia. The coffee beans grade in the top 5% of all beans in the world but because its bean to bag in Ethiopia the impact is huge. Our coffee supports up to five times more jobs, profits and incomes to stay in local hands and because our coffee is grown in a forest not a field it has a third of the carbon footprint of other coffees while protecting Ethiopian forests and their natural environments.

Why did you get involved with this company?

It probably all dates back to a hike I was on in a coffee growing community in Africa (more about that hike here) and met hiked in coffee farmers who were growing fabulous organic and natural coffees but who were earning less than the price of a cup of coffee, who were so poor they couldn’t afford to feed their kids. I was interested in starting a company that could change all that.

FairChain offers much more value than FairTrade alone, want to explain how it differs and what it offers?

FairTrade is a great movement and it has been very successful at explaining to us all how unfair the coffee industry is but it hasn’t really shifted the needle in terms of profits and jobs. Coffee growing countries are still exporting raw green beans to big multinationals in the west where they could be capturing a lot more of the value from their harvest.

With FairChain we don’t just pay farmers a few cents on the dollar. Right now we pay our farmers a 20% premium on all their beans and they don’t have to pay us to be certified (they do however have to train in sustainable agricultural practices that can boost harvests while protecting the forests). So this gets farmers from about $400 to $480 a year which is ok but it still leaves these farmers desperately poor. We’ve calculated that a living wage for our farmers in about $1000 a year so that’s our target. We’re training the farmers to increase their yields but were also working to shift more of the value added activities from coffee back into the hands of the farmers. For example we’re in the process with grants from donors including Irish Aid of purchasing the local washing station, upgrading it and handing it over to the farmers so that they can process their coffee cherries into green beans and earn a much higher margin on their harvest.

The Moyee roastery is also located in Addis so our coffee is grown, roasted and bagged in the country of origin. The goal is to help farmers earn a living wage for their families while also developing a local coffee roasting industry in the country of origin. Its all about trade not aid

How might blockchain tech help you guys and what you are trying to do?

We talk about using BlockChain to create a “shared value coffee chain with positive externalities” and by this we mean three things:

(1) 100% Transparency: Provide 100% transparency throughout the value chain, allow consumers see from end to end who gets paid what from the price of their bag or cup of coffee

(2) Engage the Ethical Consumer: using blockchain technology we can give our consumers 50c token (based on real fiat currency not crypto!) back on every purchase and enable them to tip the farmer, to effectively send that 50c back down the now digitalised value chain to fund seeds and tools or training for farmers via their farmer union.

(3) Create Positive Externalities: we know that economics alone wont end poverty for our coffee farmers – their families and communities need clean water, improved healthcare, access to education and gender equality. Thats why we’re partnering with local NGOs working within these communities and empowering our consumers to channel their tokens to fund these projects. Again with full transparency along the blockchain.

Why do you think it is such a powerful idea?

I think things are really evolving, consumers really want to know where their goods come from, to know that they are made in an ethical and sustainable way. I think for companies and producers your supply chain IS your brand so blockchain has huge potential to bring real credibility to the everyday products a foods we consume.

You guys have actually visited Ethiopia, how did that go and how did it help in terms of affirming the value of running a business with social purpose goals too?

Yes we go back every harvest season, every November to meet the community. There is something very cool about being able to stand in the middle of a rain forest high in the Ethiopian mountains and know that this is where that cup of coffee you had on rainy Tuesday morning in Dublin started its journey. Its also very humbling too to see how hard working the farmers are, to see how much work they put into our coffee but also to see how little they get in return. It’s moving and motivating. It’s what encourages us to try and change things. To figure out how we can get more money back to these families and these communities. To make the coffee chain more fair and more balanced.

How can people find out more about you & your work?

www.moyeecoffee.ie

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?

If you fancy organising a Moyee tasting in your office simply email us at [email protected]


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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