Mars partnership to protect cacao from climate change
Mars is set to work with crop improvement company Benson Hill Biosystems to improve the productivity and climate resilience of the cacao tree.
Mars will employ Benson’s CropOS™ to improve the productivity, stress tolerance and climate resilience of cacao trees.
Healthy, productive cacao trees benefit the millions of smallholder farmers globally who depend on the trees for their livelihood, but climate change and increasing disease pressure put production at risk.
Benson Hill’s CropOS™ computational platform and suite of breeding and genome editing tools “leverage the natural genetic diversity of plants to improve the sustainability, nutrition and flavor profiles of crops with greater precision than previously possible, dramatically improving the cost and timelines to develop new products”.
Mars has committed to sustainability throughout its operations, including sharing its expertise in science and technology to enable farmers to plant high-yielding, climate resistant, water and nutrient use efficient and disease-resistant cacao.
Commenting on this strategic partnership, Dr. Howard Shapiro, Chief Agricultural Officer of Mars, said: “We want to enable farmers to produce more cocoa from less land. Benson Hill has built an impressive data and machine learning platform designed to provide insights that can improve crops faster.
“By tapping into the natural genetic diversity of cacao, we can speed up the evolutionary process necessary for improved productivity, disease resistance and resiliency to climate change.”
Ray Schnell, Plant Science Discipline Leader, Corporate Innovation at Mars, added: “Mars has invested in cacao breeding for over 20 years including sequencing the genome of important parental lines and evaluating large progeny trials. By leveraging Breed, powered by CropOS, we aim to use predictive analytics to significantly accelerate the cacao cultivar development program, which will benefit cacao breeders and farmers globally.”