Integrated Open Canopy™(IOC™) coffee farming, is a system of restorative coffee farming that directly contributes to the protection and/or restoration of forest habitat, and is linked with the Yoro Biological Corridor project.
IOC™ coffee farms are based on the concept of “land-sparing”, requiring a 1:1 farm-to-forest ratio, which means that 50% of a farmer’s land is coffee farm and the other 50% is conserved and/or restored forest habitat. This system of farming takes sustainable coffee to the next level by, not only stopping the current overuse of resources, but also restoring forests that have already been used up by human activity. The farmer can choose to have whatever amount of sun/shade is best for the coffee trees. This tends to be a mix of sun and shade, hence the name “Integrated Open Canopy”.
Coffee yields on IOC™ farms are typically substantially higher than shade farms, which is attributed to more sunlight and benefits from pollinators and insect-pest control by birds associated with the adjacent forest patches, as well as the fact that farmers are able to make whatever decisions are best for their coffee plants; mainly, adding or removing shade from their farms whenever needed.
Restorative Coffee Farming
Integrated Open Canopy™ farms are restoring forest habitat by encouraging farmers to allow forest to regenerate on their lands (also known as “restorative coffee“). These buffer zones are left to grow wild (also known a “rewilding”) and, as natural forest areas are restored, and more farms adopt IOC™, these forest fragments become a defining characteristic of the landscape.
IOC™ coffee farms are mapped out in a way that links up the reforested areas of each coffee farm in order to create large forest corridors. These corridors support increased biodiversity as well as keystone species, in particular migratory birds …
Integrated Open Canopy™ farms have proven to provide forest habitat for migratory birds. Research has shown that IOC™ coffee farms support forest-dependent specialists not support by shade coffee farming, making IOC™ the next best thing to primary forest (or “natural forest”).
Carbon Sequestration & Offsets
Another important advancement of Integrated Open Canopy™ farms is the carbon offset component. As of 2020, researchers are measuring the amount of carbon sequestration on IOC™ coffee farms and carbon avoided emissions with carbon-neutral processing and selling that carbon in over-the-counter sales of carbon offsets. This means that coffee growers are collecting additional revenue from the reforested area of their farms, providing them with a security crop and a long-term incentive to leave 50% of their farm’s forest intact.