Colombian Scientist talks about his coffee research experience and shares the goal of the research he is conducting at USDA lab under ECPA renewable energy pillar.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Juan Carlos Lopez-Nunez was born in Facatativá, a town 50 km west of Bogota, capital of Colombia. He studied Microbiology at Universidad de Los Andes, and in 1991 he joined the National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafe) a dependence organism of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, which main challenge is the development of appropriate technologies for the production of coffee in Colombia..

The professional development of Juan Carlos has primarily focus on research designed to make Colombian coffee farmers reduce the use of chemicals to control pests and diseases, through the implementation of biological tools as a viable alternative for farmers. An example of Juan Carlos’ notorious work is the research that allowed to incorporate the use of entomopathogenic nematodes as a complementary tool to control the coffee berry borer, one of the most limiting insect pests of coffee growing in the world. This study and the implementation of this control tool has given him recognition not only in this home country but also in different Latin American countries, as one of the main researchers of the region who is involved in this subject.

At the same time, his work has allowed to identify and value the biodiversity of different organisms in Colombia such as fungi, bacteria and nematodes and its interaction with the environment. These activities have been reinforced even more thanks to his association to a new discipline at Cenicafé (Natural Resources and Conservation), allowing him to make proposals focused on exploring innovative energy sources viable for farmer use.

This latest initiative, based on the idea that more than 90% of the dry weight of the coffee fruit is waste, and pulp and mucilage are the most important by-products obtained by wet milling coffee, representing over 60% in fresh weight of waste, generated an agreement between the Department of Sustainable Development of the Organization of American States (SG/OAS), the National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafé) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). This first approach resulted in the establishment of a research project entitled “The use of Coffee biomass for biofuel production and electricity generation.” The project has a duration of 15 months, during which the researches will focus on determining the potential use of coffee waste as a source of biomass (mainly pulp and mucilage), to generate renewable energy, adding importance to the production of coffee, and achieving environmental benefits in terms of mitigating the impact of coffee production to the environment.

View of the National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafe)