Cargill partners with AeroFarms for indoor grown cocoa

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Cargill eyes indoor farming for sustainable cocoa / Pic: Getty Images Dwart
Cargill eyes indoor farming for sustainable cocoa / Pic: Getty Images Dwart

Related tags: vertical farming, Cargill

Commodities giant Cargill has entered a partnership with vertical farming experts AeroFarms to examine how indoor farming technologies can be used in the cocoa sector.

The deal sees the companies enter a multi-year research agreement aimed at improving cocoa bean yields and developing more climate-resilient farming practices. The research collaboration brings together AeroFarms’ expertise in controlled environment agriculture, with Cargill’s ‘extensive knowledge’ of cocoa agronomy and production practices.

Ag tech for sustainable cocoa

The two organizations will experiment with different indoor growing technologies including aeroponics and hydroponics, light, carbon dioxide, irrigation, nutrition, plant space and pruning to identify the optimal conditions for cocoa tree growth.

These findings will target factors such as faster tree growth and greater yields, accelerated development of varieties with enhanced pest and disease resistance, and unlocking the cocoa bean’s full flavour and colour potential.

The outcomes will help secure the future supply of cocoa beans in the face of climate change, Cargill said. However Niels Boetje, managing director Cargill Cocoa Europe, stressed that initiatives such as this do not aim to replace traditional cocoa production, adding that findings will be shared with the farmer cooperatives that supply Cargill.

“Environmental challenges and growing demand for cocoa products are placing increased pressure on the global cocoa supply chain,”​ Boetje observed.

“Through partnerships with research institutes, universities and innovative companies like AeroFarms, we are collaborating across sectors in bold experiments to bring greater productivity and resiliency to traditional cocoa farming operations. We look forward to sharing our findings with the farmer cooperatives in our cocoa supply chain to help ensure a thriving cocoa sector for generations to come.”

‘A platform to optimise plants’

AeroFarms has experience of working with more than 550 different crops.

“AeroFarms shares a similar vision as Cargill to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way… we are excited to be working on another project with them, this time focused on cocoa,”​ said David Rosenberg, Co-Founder & CEO of AeroFarms.

The vertical farming pioneer’s patented, indoor farming technology aims to provide the ‘perfect conditions’ for plants to thrive, taking agriculture to a ‘new level of precision, food safety, and productivity’. It’s processes can use up to 95% less water and no pesticides ever versus traditional field farming, AeroFarms noted.

“At AeroFarms we think of our proprietary technology as a platform to optimize plant biology, genetics, mechanical systems, operational systems, environmental systems and digital controls, data capture and analytics. Genetics and speed breeding is one of the verticals where we focus. Applying our platform to optimize cocoa growing is one way that AeroFarms can have a broader positive impact on the world,”​ Rosenberg stressed.

Initial exploratory work has already begun at AeroFarms global headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, and will soon expand to the company’s state-of-the-art AeroFarms AgX Research & Development indoor vertical farm in Abu Dhabi, UAE, which is slated to open in early 2022.

Ag tech for food system transformation is one of the subjects that will be placed under the microscope at FoodNavigator’s upcoming digital summit, Climate Smart Food.

With 12 hours of content streamed over four days, we’ll be discussing issues from sustainable sourcing, to sustainable consumption and food and ag tech innovation. 

With the food system contributing around one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions today, it is clear that business-as-usual is not an option. So what needs to change if we are to transition towards truly sustainable nutrition? Join us to find out. 

To register for free, click HERE​, or to view details of our full programme, click HERE​. 

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Climate Smart Food, 27-30 September 2021

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