GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, December 2, 2021 – Ahead of this year’s World Soil Day on December 5, we are sharing the details of a trial underway at Ugacof, Sucafina’s sister company in Uganda, to assess alternatives to synthetic fertilizer. Rather than feeding plants directly through a synthetic approach, we are exploring affordable and effective ways to feed plants by restoring soils instead.

Regenerative agriculture, including efforts to protect and enhance soils, is a key segment of the Investing in Farmers pillar of Sucafina’s recently released sustainability strategy. The soil on many coffee farms often has very low levels of organic matter and therefore struggles to retain moisture and nutrients. Finding ways to add carbon to, and boost microorganisms in, the soil is key to restoring soil balance.

To collect data on the most effective approach, we installed 30 demo plots on farms in Uganda and conducted trials using different fertilizers and different additional ingredients.

Our first step was to study the impacts on coffee plants of different quantities of organic fertilizer compared to a synthetic fertilizer and to control plots with no fertilizer added. The source of the organic fertilizer we used was black soldier fly larvae, which consume coffee pulp and food waste and convert it into a nutrient-rich compost. Read more about the black soldier fly in this article about another project we are working on in Rwanda.

The trials are also assessing different ways to try to boost the effectiveness of the organic fertilizer by adding different ingredients to the soil. Different plots receive different combinations of: a beneficial type of fungus called Trichoderma; a carbon-rich, charcoal-like substance called biochar; and coffee pulp.

Trials are currently underway in the field. Over the course of the next year or so, we will be able to start assessing the impacts on different quality indicators including regrowth of suckers, leaf mass, cherry size, and yield size.