Cargill has entered into a multi-year research agreement with AeroFarms, a leader in controlled environment agriculture, aimed at improving cocoa bean yields and developing more climate-resistant agricultural practices.

“Environmental challenges and the growing demand for cocoa products are putting increased pressure on the global cocoa supply chain,” said Niels Boetje, managing director of Cargill Cocoa Europe. “Through partnerships with research institutes, universities and innovative companies like AeroFarms, we are collaborating across sectors in bold experiments to bring greater productivity and resilience to traditional cocoa growing 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.”

This latest research collaboration combines AeroFarms' expertise in controlled environment agriculture with Cargill's in-depth knowledge of agronomy and cocoa production practices. Together, 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 conditions optimal for the growth of cocoa trees.

These results will provide new insights, targeting factors such as faster tree growth and higher yields, accelerating the development of varieties that are more resistant to pests and diseases, and unlocking the full potential, flavor and color of the cocoa bean. These results will help to secure the future supply of cocoa beans in the face of climate change.

“AeroFarms shares a vision similar to Cargill: to feed the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way,” said David Rosenberg, co-founder and CEO of AeroFarms. “We have grown over 550 different crops and are delighted to be working with them on another project, this time focusing on cocoa. At AeroFarms, we view our proprietary technology as a platform to optimize plant biology, genetics, mechanical systems, operational systems, environmental systems and digital controls, data capture and analysis. Genetics and rapid breeding is one of the verticals we focus on. Applying our platform to optimize cocoa cultivation is a way for AeroFarms to have a wider positive impact on the world.”

The first exploratory work has already started at AeroFarms global headquarters in Newark, New Jersey and will soon be extended to the state-of-the-art indoor vertical farm AeroFarms AgX Research & Development in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, whose opening is scheduled for early 2022.