Varietal Management and “Technology Package” in Propagation, Planting, and Cultivation
During 2015, our first full year of planting, Cacao Oro also made a significant commitment to genetic resource management, making sure that we had both highly-productive cocoa varietals, as well as “preferred stock” varietals that established chocolate makers find enticing and desirable for their flavor and aroma traits. Cacao Oro purchased the genetic collection of famed Costa Rican cocoa farmer Hugo Hermelink for this very reason, as well as for its proven yield potential in climatic conditions almost identical to our own.
The other technological breakthrough central to the Cacao Oro project is the proprietary micrografting system developed by the Ecom/AgriTech team, and first applied in the Cacao Oro greenhouse/nursery. Using a technique previously developed for coffee propagation (apical top-graft at early-stage development) and adapted for cocoa, we have been able to drastically reduce the time needed to produce high-quality clones in the nursery, from six months to four months. Additionally, these plants require less pruning in their formation and enter production at an earlier age than typical cocoa trees (20-24 months), meaning the path from the investment stage to the production stage takes less time.
August 2018 marked the first, small transitional step in Cacao Oro’s development, as planting of the 2,000 hectares of cacao was completed. While much work remains, our management team’s focus now shifts to processing and commercialization as the 2014 and 2015 plantings come into production. Good post-harvest processing practices to ensure quality, as well as the continued commitment to traceability – from field, to dried bean, to the client – drive the commercialization activities. Each coming year brings an exponential leap in volume as Cacao Oro builds towards its annual goal of 4,000 MT. Investment in fermentation and drying facilities and information technology will drive the team over the next 12 months. Happily, the initial audit and certification visits were met with success, and the team remains committed to incorporating these sustainability benchmarks throughout each additional phase of project development.