Water Treatment Sustainability Project 1/2 in Brazil

Water Treatment Sustainability Project 1/2 in Brazil

Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) is a coffee farm, research centre, and development lab in Brazil, owned and operated by Sylvia and Marcos Croce, alongside their son Felipe. Their mission is to promote quality, organic, sustainable coffee in Brazil - and find other farmers with the same desire, and educate them around this.

 FAF has a "passion for providing a high quality product that takes sustainability seriously both socially and environmentally", and it shows - which obviously resonated with our own values as a roastery. The sacrifices they made to turn the FAF farm organic were huge, but they paid off. We have worked with them and the farmers they support for five years now, and the quality improved so much year after year that today, Brazil is one of our key regions. Every time Ralf visits, people ask him to go back to Europe and let everyone know there is now quality coffee in Brazil!

We work with a lot of small farmers who do not have an export license, which is where exporters like FAF come in. But this is not the only reason we create a triangle partnership with farmers and exporters: They have agronomy capacities, advise and train the farmers. They pre-finance the harvest, offer cheaper credit solutions for investments - and they build the important link from farmer to roaster. We only work with exporters that we fully trust and that build the local, trustworthy relationship that elevates the farmer to higher quality levels. 

The Water Treatment Sustainability Project is one of the first sustainability projects we have been directly involved in. This latest update on the project was compiled for us by FAF.

 Using Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza as a model, the Water Treatment Sustainability Project is an initiative to bring the same level of water cleanliness, treatment, and conservation to participating producers. By partnering with THE BARN, along with local government and the producers themselves, the Water Treatment Sustainability Project can make a difference in water quality for the environment, their neighbours, and their grandchildren.



Ivan & Rose have been farming their own property on the mountain since 2008. They both grew up in coffee farming families and are expecting their first child this year. With a growing family the need for proper waste water treatment becomes even more important. As with many properties in the area, the farm relies on a simple septic tank treatment system. Long term, there are risks to the surrounding rivers and streams as this type of waste treatment is slow and prone to leaks.



To provide simple, low-cost and effective treatment of household waste (grey and black water) for a single-family residence that currently relies on an unprotected septic system.


Step One:
Grease Trap

A simple grease trap is installed that catches the grey-water solids from the kitchen. This allows for a preliminary treatment of the grey water before it flows to the Bio-digester Septic Tank.


Step Two:
Bio-digester Septic Tank

Black water waste flows directly into the Bio-digester Septic Tank and is mixed with the output from the grease-trap. Slightly more complicated than a normal septic tank, it decomposes the waste much more efficiently and allows the solids to be removed by gravity - so instead of a removal service with a tank and pumps, the property owner can do this annually and can store the solids in a drying tank on the premises. This then becomes compost!


Step Three:
Wetland Filtration System

 This is a planted living garden that receives the liquids from the bio-digester and filters them through the root-system and soils of the garden. Two gardens are planted. The first has a protective sheeting surrounding the plants that protects the local eco-system from the water being treated. The second garden receives the relatively clean water and returns the final treated liquids to the environment via infiltration and evaporation.


Planning & Execution Project development, execution and monitoring 1700
Materials & Labour Grease trap and piping 300
 Bio-digester septic tank 700
Wetland filtration garden 3000
Waste solid storage 200
TOTAL 5.900



Project Planning 100% complete
Material Purchase 100% complete
Construction Phase 100% complete
Monitoring/Training  In progress



Ivan and Rose, with the help of neighbours, began excavating the site the week of 02/04/19.
The principal excavations for the filtration gardens were done by mechanical excavators contracted by Ivan and Rose. The smaller holes for the concrete inspection hatches and collection areas were dug by hand by the volunteers. All the connection paths for the piping were dug by hand and carefully set at the correct level to ensure that the system would function by gravity alone without the need of pumps. Materials were purchased and delivered to the farm by FAFCoffees using the funds donated by you. Ivan & Rose agreed to pay for any mechanical excavation needed to remove topsoil for the filtration gardens and dig out the holes needed for the bio-digester and collection tanks. They also supplied the sand, gravel, and their own tractor to move heavy objects around, and lunch for all the volunteers!
The next step was to position the bio-digester in the large hole in the center of the project.

This is the heart of the system that takes all the waste water from the farm and accelerates the decomposition process. Once this was accomplished the adjacent inspection boxes that had been pre-cast in concrete could be lowered in. To the left is the inspection tank that collects waste water coming from the farm house. Above the bio-digester is the collection tank where once a year the safely decomposed solid waste is released. To the right is the collection tank where the semi-treated liquids are passed to the first filtration garden.

Plastic barrels with dispersion pipes were buried in the gardens to help the flow of liquids through the system.
Over the next months, Ivan and Rose will be seeding the filtration gardens with local plants that will clean and absorb the water flowing through the system.

Updates on Ivan and Rose's work will follow! Look out for part two of the sustainability project overview, online soon.
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