In Brazil, they wanted to force ants to get coffee
Once a few years ago, Juan Neto, an ordinary farmer from São Paulo, walked along the edge of what was once his field and gently mourned. Of the former cultivated 230 ha, hardly 40 remained – everything else took nature back …
People themselves gave her land when at the beginning of the century they abandoned the previous practice of total use of pesticides. Without chemicals, the lush tropical life in a matter of years swallowed the traces of human labor and even the ubiquitous ants appeared on former coffee plantations. So they attracted the attention of Nope.
In the clean air, the bees that disappeared were ringing, beautiful flowers bloomed violently between the weeds, and under his feet lay what had once allowed Net to feed his family – coffee grains. Stop. It was precisely the grains, the kernels of the berries of the coffee tree, which, even after the reduction in the scale of agricultural activity, still grew in their former places. The berries on the trees became noticeably smaller, not least because of the ants who had the skill to pluck them and drag them into their dens. Previously, before the era of pesticides, this was a big problem for coffee farms, but now ants could feast.
Farm Juan Neto
Nope stood, looked and tried to understand what alerted him. Grains! Ants took away ripe berries, ate the pulp, and then, like zealous owners, threw garbage from the house. The very grains of coffee that have been the main value for the whole monoculture of coffee in Sao Paulo in recent years. Juan Netou was sufficiently educated and knew that similar methods of extracting grains through the stomachs of different animals are practiced in different countries. Now here are the ants – and try, what does it taste like coffee?
For the tasting, Neto called his old friend and partner, Katsuhiko Hasegawa, the owner of a coffee shop in Tokyo and an avid lover of the drink. He was purchased with selected grains from Neto since the 1990s and was also sad that now everything has changed so radically. The news of “ant coffee” enthralled him, and his hands, holding the first, test cup of the drink, trembled as in childhood, when he unwrapped the gifts. And he was not disappointed, the coffee from these beans had a complex sweet and sour taste, with notes of jasmine. It was decided – it was necessary to show the curiosity to professional tasters.
Hasegawa returned from Japan with a mass of enthusiastic reviews and a whole portfolio of orders, but Net had to disappoint him. Ants did not produce as many grains as it seemed to him, the maximum yield was only 35 kg. This was only enough to make samples of new products, on the basis of which long-term contracts for the future were concluded. Once again, man had to admit his defeat before nature and graciously expect benefits from it.
The problem in building a business with “ant coffee” is exactly the same as everywhere else in the world when it comes to the use of living things. If you allow the animals to select the best berries, according to their animal taste, we get an excellent result, but in a ridiculous volume. And an attempt to increase production, stimulate living creatures to eat more berries, will force them to consume everything in a row – there will be more grains, but the quality will drop. The anthill is such a complex structure that only an entomologist with fifty years of experience, but not a simple farmer, can manage it from the outside. Nope made inquiries – no one except him in São Paulo is even thinking about getting “ant coffee”, although many have already heard.
The most interesting thing in this story is a sequel. Since there was nowhere to hurry, the Juan Netou family began to study the ant addiction to coffee. And it turned out that in Fiji, these insects have long learned how to plant grains in the ground and cracks in the bark of old trees, so that new ones grow in their place. Ants do not just like them, they need coffee trees and their fruits for life. Therefore, now Neto cherishes the dream of equipping a farm where he will take care of the plantings with insects and finally put the collection of coffee beans on the stream.