Global agribusiness giant Cargill has partnered with vertical farm company AeroFarms in a research project aimed at improving cocoa bean yields, Cargill announced on 12 August.

The partnership would also explore climate-resilient farming practices, the company said.

“Environmental challenges and growing demand for cocoa products are placing increased pressure on the global cocoa supply chain,” Cargill Cocoa Europe managing director Niels Boetje said.

“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.”

The collaboration brought together AeroFarms’ experience in controlled environment agriculture, with Cargill’s knowledge of cocoa agronomy and production practices, the company said.

As part of the project, Cargill said the two organisations would be experimenting 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.

The research would 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 company said.

Cargill said initial exploratory work had begun at AeroFarms’ global headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, and would soon expand to AeroFarms’ AgX research and development indoor vertical farm in Abu Dhabi, UAE, which was due to open early next year.

AeroFarms’ indoor vertical farming technology uses up to 95% less water compared to traditional field farming, according to the company.