Improving Farmers Income: Solar Drying Solutions Phase Three

Kopernik Solutions provided a sub-grant to a trusted partner organisation who is implementing this project.

We are testing whether the pairing of a technological intervention (solar drying and fermentation box) and a soft skills intervention (capacity building) can improve the quality of cacao bean produced by farmers.

Project Type

  • Experimentation


A cacao farming cooperative (UPH) who worked with Kopernik previously, received a solar dryer and fermentation box and found the technology helpful to increase their production capacity due to time saved and ability to dry in the wet season. However, they still lacked knowledge to perform post-harvest techniques successfully to meet the highest market standards.

Fermented and dried cacao beans have a higher value compared to raw cacao and/or dried unfermented cacao beans. However, most farmers in Bali are unable to perform proper fermentation and drying activities because they have limited access to tools and little knowledge on how to complete this process successfully.

To perform high-quality fermentation, farmers must have a fermentation box, a large wooden box covered with banana leaves, and understand at what temperature the beans must be stirred and are then ready for the next step. Next, farmers need to dry the beans without delay to first avoid mould and then to reach the optimal moisture level their buyers demand (7-7.5%). The speed in which this should be done can be a challenge for farmers practicing open-air floor drying that can not take place during wet weather.

In the previous phase of this experiment, we worked with the Abian farming group’s cacao processing unit (Unit Pengolah Hasil or UPH) which processes cacao bean from farmers in Angkah Village, Tabanan, Bali. During the experiment, we provided the group with a solar dryer plus a three-tier fermentation box and tested whether this technology produced a better drying result for cacao.

We found that the technology did help farmers to shorten the drying process, particularly by enabling them to dry during rainy days, but without expert guidance, the technology was not enough to meet the highest market standards. From the interviews we conducted, we found that the cacao beans resulting from these technologies were appropriate for commercial milk chocolate producers but did not meet the higher standards of gourmet chocolate factories in Bali, which would pay a higher price. These farmers taught us that technology can not be a stand-alone intervention and increased knowledge around fermentation and drying techniques and market standards must also be provided in order to achieve the biggest impact. 


Kopernik’s Unmet Needs Report (2018) examined the challenges faced by smallholder farmers in Indonesia and came up with three recommendations to meet the farmer’s needs:

  • technology intervention; 
  • capacity building; and
  • advocacy to government.

In this phase of the experiment, we will pair the technology (a solar dryer and fermentation box) with knowledge (processing techniques/market standards) to investigate whether this combination can meet the higher standards from buyers, gaining farmer’s a higher price for their beans.

We will partner with Rikolto, a Bali-based non-profit organization which has extensive experience in carrying out capacity building activities with farmers to increase the quality/price of their commodities. In addition, Rikolto has a strong network with chocolate factories in Bali and can engage them to better understand their standard requirements and pricing, and can potentially connect them directly with these farmers. This means there is potential for this UPH to have direct access to end buyers without having to involve middlemen.

In this experiment,

Kopernik will:

  • Provide the fermentation box and the solar drying technology;
  • Complete any necessary modifications to the technology design to improve performance;
  • Collect and analyze data on fermentation quality, drying quality, and the price of cacao beans.

Rikolto will:

  • Discuss market demand and the buyer’s expectations with chocolate factories;
  • Develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) on fermentation and drying for the farmer’s use;
  • Teach fermentation and drying techniques and good practice to the farmers; and
  • Connect farmers with new potential buyers.

We will collect the following data:

1. The price for the cacao beans gained before the training is provided and after the training is provided (as assessed by 3-4 different high-end buyers).

2. During the fermentation process, the:

  • Day to day temperature of the beans;
  • Number of fermentation days required to meet the highest standards: and
  • Cacao beans’ quality based on appearance and aroma (as assessed by 3-4 different high-end buyers). 

3. During the drying process, the:

  • Day to day temperature of the dryer;
  • Day to day moisture content of the beans to reach the optimal level (7-7.5%);
  • Number of drying days required to meet the highest standards; and
  • The final weight of the cacao beans after drying. 

4. After the processes have finished, the:

  • Quality of the cacao bean assessed through appearance, taste, and aroma; and
  • Price the processed cacao beans are sold for.

We hypothesize that if we pair the technology (solar drying/fermentation technology) with knowledge (processing techniques/market standards), the farmer will gain higher prices for their commodity.

This experiment will be conducted in the following steps:

Preparation and baseline visit to Angkah Village, Tabanan
We will first visit Angkah Village to meet with the Abian Farmer’s Group (UPH) to explain further about the experiment design and gain input from them as well as monitoring the current conditions of the fermentation box and solar drying technology we provided before. During this trip, we will also identify what adjustments are needed to modify the technologies to improve their performance.

Setting up the experiment
At this stage, Kopernik will complete the necessary changes required to the technology. At the same time, Rikolto will gain input from the farmers and the gourmet chocolate factories to develop fermentation and drying technique guidelines (SOPs) for farmers.

Rikolto will then lead a training session plus a focus group discussion with the farmer’s group to teach them the fermentation and drying techniques using our technology and to answer their questions related to cacao.

We will purchase the cacao from the farmers that we want to experiment with, assessing half that is processed before receiving training and assessing the other half after the farmer’s receive training.

Data collection
We will collect data for both scenarios from the first day of fermentation after the farmers finish their harvest and remove the cacao beans from their pods, until the farmers sell the cacao to the buyer.

Knowledge dissemination to stakeholders
We will conduct a dissemination event to share the results and knowledge to the cacao farmers who were involved in this experiment and to other relevant farmers/stakeholders in Bali.


Currently, most cacao farmers in Bali sell raw cacao beans to their buyers due to limited access to the technology needed to process the beans and a knowledge gap on how to meet the higher quality standards for fermentation and drying, that are required by end buyers.

We want to help more than 9,000 plantation farmers in Tabanan to increase the quality of their product by teaching improved processing techniques, and connecting farmers with end buyers.

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Solution & Project Implementation

Costs associated with the purchase of the solutions tested and project coordination


Monitoring & Evaluation

Costs associated with data collection, analysis and reporting


Administration Fee

Cost of transferring payments internationally, processing online donations (5%) and a contribution to Kopernik's operational costs (15%)


Total $7,656

Kopernik Solutions provided a sub-grant to a trusted partner organisation who is implementing this project.