Adelaide Economics alumni Adam Marley delivers us coffee with a conscience
“It’s about not altruism… it’s just logic”
At least that’s how University of Adelaide alumni and coffee expert Adam Marley describes his work with Intersection Traders, a coffee bean trading company with a vision to provide a greater distribution of wealth to the people who need it most.
After graduating from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Economics, Adam was excited by his future prospects, but the idea of working in an office did not appeal to him.
“Economics is basically decision making. I loved decision making and analysing why and how people make decisions... But it was being in an office that I wasn't super psyched about”
Working as a barista during his studies, Adam didn’t ever consider that coffee could be a career, but a shared aspiration with Daniel Milky, owner of Argo’s on the Parade, saw the birth of Monastery Coffee, of which now Adam is Operations Manager.
Through his tireless work with Monastery Coffee, and meticulous approach to flavour and quality, Adam gained an international reputation for excellence. Or at least that’s what Professor Randy Stringer from the Centre for Global Food and Resources at the University of Adelaide, told Adam when he first reached out with an opportunity to help with an exciting project in Uganda.
“I am very sceptical that people know me internationally… I think it was more of a google search and then my name came up. But he loves telling that story in Uganda, I was young so it was important for me to be known as the expert.”
The research project focused on developing value chain innovations to improve food security in East and Southern Africa. Adam was brought on as the coffee and consumer expert to help assess the viability of producing a speciality Ugandan coffee which would allow a greater share of wealth to be delivered down the value chain to farmers and pickers.
“Coffee is pretty much the only cash crop for a lot of the farmers to grow, and so they kind of treat coffee as a bank”
It wasn’t only Adam’s coffee expertise that allowed him to thrive as part of this project, with his background in economics supporting his understanding and contribution.
“I could understand the research that was going on, my degree helped me understand why what we were doing at the time was important. I don't think I would have understood the gravity of that, and how ground-breaking it was, without my degree.”
With the success of the project proving that Ugandan coffee could be transformed into specialty coffee, paying farmers a premium on the spot for their crop, came a new challenge – finding traders who were willing to bear the risk of selling the final green coffee internationally. The solution was deceptively simple,
“If no one else is going to do it, let's do it ourselves”
And thus, Intersection Traders was born, Adam partnering with fellow project members Eddy Collett and Daniel Gregg.
Intersection Traders has its fingers in many pies, from leasing farm land and operating a washing station in Uganda, to buying and trading beans as well as owning a café located within the West Oak Hotel on Hindley Street.
“Intersection traders is not a not for profit; the whole point is to show that it’s profitable because that’s how you get the “big players” interested. What we were trying to show through the research project and our business was a way to make the value chain resilient and we have done that.”
Reflecting on his career journey and shared successes, Adam is keenly aware of his privilege and how lucky he has been to be presented with so many opportunities.
“In the world we currently live in, opportunity is based on where you were born. The fact that people have different opportunities, and potentially have no possibility of getting to the same level of someone else in life simply because of where they were born, it’s just wrong”Adam Marley
Whether you call it logic or altruism, it is an undeniable fact that Adam and the crew at Intersection Traders are making an impact in the world of coffee, delivering to consumers a cup of coffee with a conscience.
Adam’s story is just one of many amazing University of Adelaide graduate stories, proving that economics can be a broadening degree that can open pathways to previously unimagined careers.