Killian Stokes and Shane Reilly are the entrepreneurs behind Ireland’s climate-conscious coffee company. Their goal, to bring the world’s best cup of joe to the Irish market while helping disadvantaged growers along the way.
The pair met during postgraduate studies at University College Dublin (UCD), having both experienced different countries of the coffee belt in previous endeavours.
The company started with a vision for the future of the world’s lucrative coffee trade, where value remained in the country of origin and in growers’ pockets, Moyee Coffee Ireland co-founder Killian Stokes tells Irish Country Living.
“Starting the business we had three main values that we remain true to. The first was to return as much value to the country of origin as possible, creating chains that allowed the primary producer to capture profits.”
With almost all of the world’s coffee exported before roasting, the two entrepreneurs embarked on their first goal of creating processing capabilities in the country of origin.
Stokes said: “I feel connected to these farmers in Ethiopia and Kenya who are exporting their product and retaining only a percentage of the full value. It reminds me of Irish agriculture in the past, exporting our raw goods without processing it. We weren’t achieving the true potential for our efforts.
“This happens today, where growers along the equators coffee belt put in the hard work producing their crops. Our plan was to look at the value chain of the coffee bean and explore ways to keep profits in the country of origin and offer the best price to our farmer suppliers. We reached out to the Africa Agri-Food Development Programme (AADP) and secured funding to help purchase a washing station in a rural village outside the Ethiopian city of Jimma.”
The AADP is an initiative funded by the Irish Government which promotes partnerships between Irish and African agri-food companies. Support of up to €250,000 is available to Irish companies who establish projects in Africa, with the aim of delivering economic benefits to communities there.
Speaking with Irish Country Living, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney highlighted that COVID-19 has not hindered the ambition of applicants to the AADP in 2020.
Minister Coveney said: “This grant-financing programme which I established several years ago, is an excellent example of how Ireland is enabling collaboration between our agri-food sector and African companies in support of rural and food system transformation.
“At present, AADP is supporting partnerships in sectors ranging from coffee to animal health; therapeutic food production to dairy, potato and mango value chains. Our cooperation with African partners provide an opportunity to share our own expertise in transforming the agri-food sector in an inclusive and sustainable manner.”
The entrepreneur’s second key value in their business is to provide a living income for their farmer suppliers.
Stokes continued: “When poverty sets in, climate degradation follows soon after. Farmers require an income that will provide stability for not only their families but the environment on which they depend. Currently we are running a profit share model on the washing station with the farmers and hope to one day give ownership to the native people when the systems are in place to allow it.”
When our farmers have a wage they can survive off, they won’t have to carry out practices which will degrade the environment
“It will be a long journey to ensure the centre is managed properly but it is another big step to creating greater value chains in the country of origin. We pay our farmers a wage which is 20% above market average.
“This allows us to achieve our third goal of ensuring environmental sustainability of our product. When our farmers have a wage they can survive off, they won’t have to carry out practices which will degrade the environment.”
The company shows no signs of slowing down their climate conscious efforts with expansion on the horizon. Two coffee tree nurseries are in development in Ethiopia along with a roasting machine currently on the way to Kenya.
Stokes attributes his success to the model of business with charity at heart. “A great starting point for any entrepreneur who wants to make a difference in a developing country is to speak with NGOs and find out what are the challenges on the ground. Then it’s time for the drawing board to figure out a way to tackle the issue while also turning a profit in the process.
“The ADDP affords companies like ours the exciting endeavour of protecting the environment, benefitting disadvantaged farmers, and providing some of the world’s best coffee to the consumer.”