Q&A with an expert - Digital transformation
Q&A with an Expert
A quick chat with Elisa Criscione, Founder and CEO of Digital Coffee Future.
Elisa is a passionate professional in the agri-tech and sustainable development sector with strong international experience. She wants to see digitalization help increase efficiency for all coffee stakeholders and aims to support coffee sector companies and organizations to sustainably integrate and leverage digitalization.
Elisa Criscione: Whether we like it or not, we’re headed towards an increasingly digitalized era – in coffee and in general. Digitalization can help actors across the coffee value chain to improve the efficiency of their operations, which means more environmentally sustainable operations, better profits, decreased workload and generally better prospects, opportunities and competitiveness. At this point in time, we as an industry need to make sure that we offer positive, tailored solutions for all people in the coffee industry, at every step of the value chain. It’s not the answer to a sustainable coffee industry, but it’s certainly a piece of the puzzle.
Elisa Criscione: We need global work and collaboration across the industry. There are challenges that exist in bridging the gap between technology providers, the ideas or starting point behind the technology, and the user communities they target. The user accessibility of technological products will depend on bridging that gap. We need to ask some basic questions before starting out. Who creates technology? Who implements technology? We need a real exchange across the value chain.
Another important area to keep an eye on is big data. It tends to be collected and managed by big trade. We need to share this information with the data providers themselves – the cooperatives and producers around the world. The flow of information must go both ways. In the end, we need more transparency for all involved in the coffee sector and better, more inclusive decision-making.
Elisa Criscione: It’s a very complicated time, specifically looking at the human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) and deforestation directives. The implications for the coffee industry are enormous. I’m not sure how we can handle such a huge amount of data. I feel like additional regulation on data ownership might be adding too much pressure at a time when everyone is still trying to wrap their heads around the new requirements.
Understanding where the competitive data is and having a pre-competitive approach to data management and ownership would be a good place to start. In my opinion, if you provide data, you should own it.
Elisa Criscione: When we talk about coffee prices, we as an industry tend to talk about climate change and socio-economic influences, but we rarely talk about technology. I believe that by being more proactive in getting technology to smaller actors and working on how they relate to it, we can play a role in influencing prices as well. Even simple technology like Excel sheets can make a difference – they can go a long way in better managing risk, and improved decision-making on whether to buy or not to buy, for example.
Technology presents an opportunity in terms of using information to build a fairer industry in terms of price-taking and price-making. By looking at pay gaps and margins, and finding solutions, we can achieve a more rewarding business environment for coffee producers.
Elisa Criscione: Knowledge creation and offering platforms where people can learn about tech and other solutions available to them across the value chain are key points for me. The most important priority is developing and conveying tailored solutions and getting people to understand how tech solutions can concretely apply to their specific business model.
Digital Coffee Future is working on an education portfolio to guide actors at coffee origin, for example. We want to guide them on how technology can help them identify solutions to their obstacles and to be more proactive. A hands-on approach is key to increase efficiency and impact. We need co-creation for tailored, adapted solutions. “What tech solution should I pick?” is the most common question I get, but the right question is “What are my business goals?” A solution that works for one business may not be a good fit for another. Digitalization needs to be unrolled on a case-by-case basis. Creating technology that is specific to needs is just as important as co-creation.