Farm: Fazenda Quilombo (Shimada Agribusiness)
Altitude: 1180 meters above sea level
Owner: Fussae Hidai Shimada and siblings
Town / City: Ibia, Campos Altos
Region: Cerrado Mineiro (Minas Gerais)
Overall: Almonds, apricot danish, mandarin, lemon, delicate, well balanced cup
Fazenda Quilombo - Brazil
Fazenda Quilombo started out in 1975; when a young Paulo Takeshi Shimada chose to follow his entrepreneurial spirit, travelling to the region of Cerrado Mineiro (Minas Gerais) to pursue a life in agriculture. Here, Paulo started his venture that would later grow into Shimada Agribusiness; a farm well known for its high levels of diversification and high quality produce. Since Paulo’s untimely death in 1994, his widow, Vera Shimada, and their four children have continued his legacy, still following the same practices and values he set out in his earlier career.
Over 80 years ago, Yohei Shimada and Tsuya Shimada travelled from Japan to Brazil, to find work in coffee farms in the region of Guatapará; Sao Paulo. After several years, Yohei and Tsuya were able to purchase their own farm in the north of the state of Parana. Here, Paulo Takeshi Shimada was born: the youngest child out of the 8 siblings. Having initially studied to become a veterinarian, Paulo opted for a change and planned a move to Cerrado Mineiro. Along with his brothers, Paulo helped establish one of the first farms to join the Alto Paranaíba Guided Rural Settlement Program (PADAP); an initiative set up by the federal and local government to encourage agriculture in the region. This period presented many challenges for the Shimada family. The region traditionally had not been associated with agriculture; with poor soil quality and almost no infrastructure for production. With hard work and determination, the Shimada boys managed to build a thriving business. Paulo’s hard work was particularly noticeable, highlighting his incredible dedication to growing a successful farm.
Fazenda Quilombo takes its name from the nearby Quilombo community, which is among the largest in Brazil. The Quilombo community was formed by a group of slaves that escaped repression from the Portuguese colonisers, who managed huge areas of land during the slavery period in Brazil. This particular Quilombo community located near Shimada’s farm is called D’Ambrósio and was founded in 1726.
After nearly 20 successful years growing the business, Paulo’s untimely death in 1994 meant that his wife, Fussae Hidai Shimada (also known in the community as Vera Shimada), had to take over management of the business to support her four children. It was a challenging period for the Shimada’s; however, thanks to the union between the families, they were able to work together through this difficult time, keeping Fazenda Quilombo alive and prosperous.
Nowadays, Shimada Agronegócios (or Shimada Agribusiness) has grown to become a successful producer of quality products, whilst still maintaining Paulo’s values of integrity and dedication to work. Spanning close to 4000 hectares, Fazenda Quilombo today produces a range of products, including; avocados, garlic, beets, carrots, corn, soybeans, blueberries, cabbage and beef.
Having grown coffee for close to 100 years, the Shimada family are experienced in production. Lots are kept separated according to variety, with selection based on productivity as well as suitability for climate and soil. In 2017, Fazenda Quilombo joined the Demonstrative Units of Coffee Cultivars project with the Cerrado Mineiro Coffee Growers Federation. The project consisted of 26 experimental fields, with 12 different varietals, in 12 different cities in the Cerrado Mineiro Region. The goal was to analyse the interaction between variables and how they affected the varieties adaptation, cup quality, productivity and crop management. From this, successful varieties such as Arara (created in Brazil by combining Yellow Catuai and Obatã, known for its successful yield and cup quality), have been selected for production.
Fazenda Quilombo prioritises two types of cultivation methods. One is seen to be their conventional method, whilst their other (grown under the shade of avocado trees) is their experimental lot. Here, the coffee plants are exposed to different standards, as shade is often rare for Brazilian coffee farming. Pest control is also provided by a special technique. Trichogramma (a type of wasp) eggs are spread around the plantation instead of using agrochemicals. These small wasps, when hatched, pray on lepidopteran eggs, preventing them from damaging the crop.
Once the cherry is seen to be ripe, the coffee is handpicked using the ‘stripping’ method. Large canvases are placed on the ground, before the picker grabs the branch at the stump and pulls, knocking the coffee cherry off the branch. In the high season, Fazenda Quilombo will employ 50 people to strip the fields. For the remainder of the year, there are just ten members of staff across their coffee plots. The Quilombo family will also undertake at least two passes with a mechanical harvester later in the season. Once picked, coffee is separated by day and quality, before being placed on patios to dry.
Cherry is first placed in thin layers for the first two days, before adding more to slow down the moisture loss. The cherry will usually remain on the patio for four days, before being moved to mechanical dryers, where it will remain until the cherry reaches 11% moisture. Finally, the coffee is milled to remove the fruit, before being transported to the warehouse ready to be shipped.
The Conservation effort at Fazenda Quilombo is deemed to be of high importance. More than 20% of the land is already classed as legal reservation, with the Shimada family engaging in a number of local projects with the local community; including Environmental educational programs and a Community Garden at the Quilombo D’Ambrósio community. Both of these schemes help protect the environment, as well as support the local community.
The Shimada family also help to provide social support for their 800 members. Fazenda Quilombo enlists career planners, a people management consulting team and a psychologist, all to help provide support to their employees.
Fazenda Quilombo has a number of plans for future green initiatives, including; water reservoirs to manage rainfall, the implementation of a de-pulper to save water and clean energy production using solar panels.
Establishing Aequitas Exporters:
2019 marks the first year that Mercanta has worked with Fazenda Quilombo. Aequitas Exporters are a huge part of the story of how Mercanta came to work with Fazenda Quilombo. Aequitas is a family business owned by the Minami family, a Japanese-Brazilian family whose members were some of the first to farm coffee in the Cerrado Mineiro. The Minamis believe that volatility in pricing due to fluctuations in the market poses huge challenges to coffee production. Part of the problem is looking at coffee as a commodity rather than as a connection between people. For more than 40 years, their production was traded following the traditional path: Farmer > Cooperative > Middleman > Exporter > Importer > Roaster > Consumer.
In August 2015, this logic changed. A speciality coffee roaster and Q-grader cupped the Minami family’s coffee and gave it a score of 86 on the SCAA scale. The family could not believe it so they asked three other Q-graders to cup their coffee samples. They all provided similar results. At this point, they realised the potential of the region’s coffee.
They started to sell their coffee directly to coffee shops in São Paulo and gained some insight into consumer preferences for high quality, speciality coffee. The experience was empowering and made them feel more confident that they could reach markets that valued coffee in a different way. In May 2016 they exported a container loaded with speciality coffee – with lots ranging from 82 to 87 points – to an importer in Europe.
After these achievements, the family started thinking: “Why not do the same for other producers in our region?” Aequitas Coffee Exporters was born. Today, 42 years after Nicolau Minami (the current owner of the company, along with his daughter Yuki and other children) arrived in the region; he finally has the opportunity to make a huge difference in the local and global coffee community.
Engaging fellow cooperative members in speciality coffee is part of the company’s mission, and investment in exploring quality potential plays a crucial role. For instance, from May to August of 2017 a group of producers from Coopadap including the Minami's received a consultation with Professor Flavio Borem and his team – experts in speciality coffee processing. During the harvest period, the producers listened to lectures and engaged in cupping sessions with the professor, who also visited farms to analyse the coffee’s potential and to give post-harvesting training. As a component of the assessment, the team also conducted stringent processing experiments. Ripe coffee was hand-picked from two different coffee plots, one of a red varietal and the other a yellow varietal. These were then taken to the co-op's experimental farm where the professor’s equipment was installed. The team processed the lots separately, using pulped natural and natural methods. The coffee started the drying process in raised beds and then was moved to the professor's lab at the Federal University of Lavras in order to continue drying. This guaranteed the best-controlled conditions for drying and storage. In August 2017, Borem presented the results and compared coffee sensorial analysis using SCA method according to the variables processing, varietal and altitude (below or above 1.100). The experiment was instructive for Cooperative members who are deciding which varietal planting they will undertake (taking into account altitude) and which processing method will result in expressing the coffee's highest cup potential.
Aequitas Coffee is 100% committed to transparency and equality. Equity is their core value, and the name of the company itself derives from the Latin word Aequitatis, or Equity. Aequitas was the Roman goddess of fair dealing and honest measure. The goal of the company is to connect coffee producers from the region of São Gotardo to the speciality coffee market and to create overall awareness amongst them of the choices they have rather than being reduced to a secondary link in the supply chain. Aequitas feels that producers deserve to be recognized and rewarded by the coffee community for the love and effort they dedicate in producing an outstanding coffee.
Mercanta is proud to support the efforts of Aequitas in bringing new speciality coffees from this region to the market.