With the team in place and seeds sourced, the team began nursery operations in September. Germinating coffee seeds can be done in a number of ways but as the team had tens of thousands of seeds to germinate they followed the following process:
Pulp coffee cherries and remove mucilage through washing in cold water
If planting immediately, then soak green beans in water for 24 hours
If not planting immediately the beans can be dried to a moisture content of 40% after removing mucilage, and stored for up to six months
If green beans have been dried for storage then prior to planting, as above, seeds need to be soaked for 24 hours to kick-start germination
When ready to plant, the seeds are placed in beds with a simple mix of topsoil and covered lightly to a depth of approximately half an inch
After about four weeks the first matchsticks appear from the seed bed but it can take as long as eight to ten weeks for all viable seeds to germinate
When the matchsticks have developed into seedlings with a couple of sets of leaves they are then moved into polybags…
And here they stay until they’re ready to be planted into the field about eight months later.
During the time the seedlings are in the shade houses they are closely observed by the nursery team, who monitor the trees to ensure they have sufficient water but aren’t saturated, as well as checking for pests and disease. They also take note of the health of the tree as evidence of sufficient nutrient supply, and sparingly apply fertilisers if required.
By about month nine, the seedlings will be about one and a half feet tall and should have six or more sets of leaves. At this point they are ready to be planted out into the field, providing there has been enough recent rainfall to ensure the soil in the fields is prime for the trees to adapt to.