Challenges facing the industry
How quality is defined across the coffee supply chain has been one of the key challenges for the industry. Cupping, a widely accepted method for sensory evaluation of coffee aroma and taste, is highly subjective and time-consuming, as beans have to be roasted, ground, then brewed before cupping even begins.
Not to mention, this onerous process first necessitates traditional methods of sample shipping for physical assessment – resulting in high sample shipping costs and wastage. As coffee production conditions vary across high-tech farms and small producers, properly ascertaining the quality of coffee beans becomes even more important for buyers and traders.
Unfortunately, at the producer level, coffee farmers often lack access to knowledge and tools to understand the true value of their produce and hence are often underpaid for their crop. This leads to a situation where producers lack the incentive motivation to improve the quality and yield of their crops.
To tackle these challenges, the coffee industry must adopt a more objective and efficient method for sensory evaluation.
Harnessing the power of AI technology to bridge subjective quality standards
Recognising the challenges faced by different players in the industry, ProfilePrint, a Singapore-based company, took to developing an innovative AI-driven solution that assesses the quality of coffee beans at every stage of the supply chain – from producers to traders to buyers. By acting as a “standards translator” amongst parties, ProfilePrint is able to help its clients better understand their buyers and suppliers based on an agreed set of quality parameters, streamlining the buying process.
The technology works non-destructively by using data from molecular signatures captured from green coffee bean samples. This data is then processed in ProfilePrint’s SaaS Platform, where the AI predicts the quality of the sample and matches the digital fingerprint of the buyer’s desired bean with the seller’s bean samples. Within seconds, a comprehensive digital report is generated detailing the green coffee bean’s sensory profile and quality assessment score.
Alan Lai, CEO and founder of ProfilePrint says, “Today, one of the biggest challenges facing the coffee supply chain is that there is no agreed set of standards when it comes to quality assessment. This makes trading difficult and onerous, as every stakeholder along the supply chain trades based on different quality standards.”
“ProfilePrint, beyond generating quality assessment reports using industry standards, also allows users to digitally “translate” the report according to their tailored considerations – offering a more expedient, efficient, and transparent way of evaluating quality.”
Empowering human graders ProfilePrint’s innovative AI technology also empowers human graders and speed up assessment processes. The technology is not only able to provide a quality assessment of the food ingredient using its baseline AI model based on the industry standard, but it also has the ability to customise its assessment prediction based on unique requirements which may differ from the industry standard.
Beyond that, human graders can also calibrate the baseline AI model provided by ProfilePrint towards their own sensory preferences to predict the result as if it were graded by the same graders.
“Our alliance with Anacafe allows producers in large coffee producing regions like Guatemala build their knowledge and understanding of their beans, that was not available before. ProfilePrint will empower Guatemalan coffee producers to better assess the quality of their crop, more efficiently grade their beans, and to compete more confidently on a global scale,” says Ellis Chua, Chief Commercial Officer at ProfilePrint.
A more sustainable supply chain Another key benefit of ProfilePrint’s AI solution is that it promotes sustainability in the coffee supply chain. The traditional method of shipping physical samples can now be replaced by a digital sampling process, significantly reducing sample wastage and lowering the carbon footprint from having to ship samples.
For buyers, this not only results in a lowering of cost as sourcing becomes more accurate, but it also shortens the sales cycle by up to 10 times. For producers, ProfilePrint’s AI technology is a game-changer as it can rapidly assess the quality of the green coffee bean and tailor it to meet the buyers’ needs, reducing quality rejection. This allows producers to justify the prices of their crops, thus improving their profitability and uplifting their livelihoods.
Similarly, the technology also empowers small-scale producers to compete more effectively with the larger industry players, resulting in a more equitable and sustainable coffee industry.
“Our vision for ProfilePrint is to revolutionise the coffee supply chain by leveraging our AI- driven solution. Despite the widespread use of AI in the coffee industry in recent times, we have yet to witness a system that can effectively align quality standards on a global level. This is why we are committed to continually enhance and refine our AI capabilities that will efficiently streamline transaction process, benefiting buyers and producers across supply chains.” Alan concludes.
Words from ProfilePrint’s CEO and founder, Alan Lai and Chief Commerical Officer, Ellis Chua.
Alan is the founder and CEO of ProfilePrint, and the inventor of its patented AI digital food fingerprint technology. Before starting ProfilePrint, he was the Assistant CEO of IHDpay Group, a Hong Kong investment firm focusing on digital payment KYC in China. Prior, his professional experience with CapitaLand includes heading M&A / investment in the United Kingdom, General Manager South China Ascott, and Assistant to Group CEO President CapitaLand. He is concurrently a reserve deputy Squadron Commander at the Singapore Air Force with previous key appointments, including Flight Commander and Staff Officer at the Chief of Air Force Office. He was a PhD candidate in Operational Research at INSEAD, completed a post-graduate management program at Tsinghua University, and graduated with French Singapore Double Engineering degrees (1st Class) from Ecole Centrale Paris and the National University of Singapore under a government scholarship.
Ellis Chua is the Chief Commercial Officer of ProfilePrint, spearheading the company’s commercial strategy. Before joining ProfilePrint, Ellis was a co-founder of a med-tech startup which has since been acquired by a listed company. With a diverse background in engineering, finance, and technology, Ellis has over 10 years of banking experience. He also served as the general manager of an engineering technology startup in Hong Kong. Ellis completed a post-graduate program from Singapore Management University with a Master of Science in Wealth Management and a Bachelor of Engineering program in Electrical Electronic Engineering from Nanyang Technological University.