Producers' Optionality

The other day I started a train-of-thought post, wondering what an antifragile coffee farm would look like. In this post, I continue that thought by exploring Taleb’s idea of optionality:

[A]t the core, an option is what makes you antifragile and allows you to benefit from the positive side of uncertainty, without a corresponding serious harm from the negative side1.

Taleb talks about optionality in the form of trial and error and in my previous post I suggested antifragile farmers should run many breed experiments to determine which breed satisfies the range of needs a farmer has* and  also to provide product options; the ability to have a range of products with different flavor profiles that can be sold to different customers posing different needs.

See also: Coffee Sustainability

ibu sorting

Compare this to a farmer who leverages monoculture; he has one or two different breeds on his entire farm and they are both harvested and processed together, forming one single product (maybe two if he’s pulling defects and processing them as a “local” product—a common practice).  The monoculture farmer has no optionality and is thus fragile to stress on that one product.  If that single product suddenly falls out of favor with his customers, the farmer will be forced to rethink his product line.  The farmer with optionality, on the other hand, can withstand a single product falling out of favor with customers, so long as that single product is one of several and not representative of a majority of the farmer’s harvest.

1. Taleb. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. Random House Trade Paperbacks. 2014

Michael C. Wright

Michael is a licensed Q Grader, licensed Q Processor Pro, an Authorized SCA Trainer (AST), and most recently, a graduate with a degree in horticulture and a concentration in horticultural business management. He has over ten years experience in the coffee industry operating on both the supply and demand sides of the value chain.