Innovation That Matters

| Photo source William Boateng for Koa

Transforming cocoa waste into food and drink ingredients

Food & Drink

How can a modular, solar-powered system upcycle cocoa fruits to give farmers extra income?

Spotted: International market prices for cocoa rose significantly in late 2023 due to poor yields in West African countries after the spread of a crop disease. With extreme weather events becoming regular occurrences, many growers seek ways to build more resilience into their operations. For cocoa farmers in Ghana, agtech startup Koa has a solution. 

Usually, chocolate producers keep only the beans from the cocoa fruit. But, rather than discard the juicy pulp of the cocoa fruit, Koa works with local farmers to create an additional income stream by buying back the waste fruit pulp and transforming it into value-added Koa products for the food and drinks industry.

With smallholdings in the country spread across sizeable distances, Koa’s solution is mobile. Rather than ask farmers to bring their produce to a central processing plant, the Koa team brings a Community Mobile Processing Unit (CMPU) out to the fields. The CMPU is solar-powered, a design decision made explicitly for ease of use in off-grid locations as many smallholder farms do not have a connection to the national grid.  

The processing unit gently removes the pulp from the fruit, leaving the beans intact for processing as usual by the farmer. After being sent to the company’s factory in Assin Akrofuom for pasteurisation, the product is packaged and ready to be shipped internationally within three hours. Koa provides payment in full for the fruit immediately after processing is complete, and all transactions are verified by blockchain. 

Video source Koa

Working with Swiss partners on marketing and distribution, Koa supplies high-end restaurants and chocolatiers with ‘Koa’, a fresh new ingredient. Already in use by globally known brands that include Lindt and Valrhona, the startup provides the ingredient in a range of forms. Pure cocoa fruit juice, Koa powder, and various concentrations of the fruit bring a new flavour addition to an array of products, from drinks and chocolates to salad dressings and sorbets.  

The company currently works with more than 2,200 farmers, and having recently secured a series B funding round of $15 million (around €13.7 million), plans to increase its production capacity tenfold and expand its leadership position in supporting smallholder farmers in the transition to regenerative agriculture.  

From bringing growers online to providing biogas digesters for homes and farms, innovators spotted in Springwise’s library are helping smallholder farmers become more resilient to climate change and grow their economic security.

Written By: Keely Khoury




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