The Birth of Kogo

By Simon Roca

I was raised on a sustainable, organic fruit farm in the remote far reaches of northern Wisconsin. Our family grew apples, raspberries and blueberries and were taught to value the environment, community and sustainably produced food.

Growing up, my mother exposed me to a wealth of natural remedies and organic food products. For example, we would use the gel of an Aloe plant to heal burns and we would grow or buy most of our food from the local co-op, whose organic cereals inevitably tasted like cardboard- man I used to dream of having cocoa puffs!

Cardboard cereal aside, I developed an appreciation for health and wellness. This later grew into a regular practice of cultivating strength and resilience of body and mind through fitness and meditation, and through the use of superfoods like MACA, MORINGA, and other extracts.

So where does Kogo come in? After college and receiving a business degree, I joined the US Peace Corps in Panama as a Business Development and Sustainable Agriculture Advisor.

We began service with a 10 week training period; hot, 10-hour days filled with agricultural training, mosquitos, and the occasional mango.

By the end of the day my mind would be frazzled by the effort of communicating across language and culture, the hot sun and humidity, and the constant battle with scorpions and mold that seemed to grow on everything, including my underwear!

One evening, I was lying under my mosquito net, fan on full blast, using my phone to do research on nootropics. I was trying to find a nootropic that actually did what it claimed to do, something that could help me get through these 10 weeks. Eventually, I came upon a Youtube video of a CEO being interviewed about the variety of stimulants he takes to improve his performance in the work place. He said the words “coffee” and “cherry”, and immediately my ears perked up, for I had just been working with a group of farmers on their coffee production.

Intrigued, I searched for more information and the research papers I came across described an amazing variety of benefits that coffee cherries offer to both the body and mind.

This was all so surprising, because none of my Peace Corps trainers nor any of the farmers I met talked about the benefits of coffee cherries. After some inquiring, I discovered that most coffee farmers view coffee cherries as waste or compost. Often, the cherries are left to rot and ferment in vast quantities leading to water pollution, and releasing methane gas causing harm to the environment.

I thought about how the majority of small scale coffee farmers around the world are actually paid pennies on the dollar for the product of their labor, while a few, select, larger coffee companies hold an oligopoly over most of the market, raking in profits hand over fist.

An idea started to take hold within me. I realized that if I could put together a product to sell to consumers, it could help supplement farmers’ incomes, reduce the environmental pollution from fermented cherry waste, and also offer consumers in the U.S. an extremely valuable product at an affordable price. And so it was that KOGO came to be, and better yet, it tastes good and nothing like cardboard!