Cargill and vertical farming company AeroFarms team up to unlock a more resilient cocoa supply chain

There are many opportunities to improve the efficiency and resilience of the $54bn global cocoa sector, which has long been impacted by issues such as drought, deforestation, aging cocoa trees with lower yields, and climate change, said Niels Boetje, managing director Cargill Cocoa Europe.

Boetje added that these environmental challenges have placed increased pressure on the global cocoa supply chain, particularly on cocoa farmers.

“AeroFarms and Cargill both share a joint vision and are looking at long-term solutions to contribute to the resilience of the global food system. We think with a project like this, we can really uncover new ways of bringing new solutions and new knowledge to farmers in our supply chain,”​ Boetje told FoodNavigator-USA.

Cargill’s global cocoa and chocolate business has its own established sourcing and trading operations in the world’s largest cocoa-producing regions including Brazil, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia, supported by the company’s 4,100 cocoa and chocolate experts working across 57 locations.

The findings from the research collaboration will yield new insights, targeting specific 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 flavor and color potential, said Cargill.

‘This doesn’t mean the end product will be grown in vertical farms’

The research partnership would combine Cargill’s extensive knowledge of cocoa agronomy and production practices with AeroFarms’ expertise in indoor growing methods and plant science to create the optimal conditions for cocoa tree growth. The project’s first phase will be about demonstrating that cocoa trees can be grown in a controlled environment, a first for AeroFarms, which has never grown trees before. 

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