Can you grow coffee in Fort Pierce, Florida?

Oranges, sugarcane and strawberries are crops synonymous with Florida agriculture. Could coffee be next?

While Florida isn’t likely to export coffee anytime soon, it could export groundbreaking research to the rest of the world — some of it being conducted on the Treasure Coast — to improve the global coffee industry.

Researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are working with farmers and even artificial intelligence on multiple studies about growing coffee. From studying the flavors of different varieties to developing disease-resistant plants, they hope to discover advancements in coffee production techniques.

“We are working with a crop that is facing a lack of innovation,” said UF/IFAS research assistant Luis Felipe Ventorim Ferrão. “If we don’t innovate, we stay flat in coffee.”

Can you grow coffee in Florida?

Researchers are studying coffee plants growing in a field at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Science's Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce to advance production techniques.

The first question researchers want to answer: Can coffee survive in Florida?

Florida lacks almost all the ideal conditions for large-scale coffee production that countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica have in abundance. Coffee plants need specific soil chemistry, precipitation and tropical weather conditions with little risk of cold snaps. The ideal temperature range for coffee plants is 64-70 degrees, and even short periods in colder conditions can be potentially lethal to the plants, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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