Mars, Incorporated creates venture for disease resistant cacao strains

Mars, Incorporated is collaborating with optimisation analytics firm Nature Source Improved Plants in a bid to develop new strains of high yield, disease resistant cacao.

The joint venture comes amid a backdrop of demand for cacao is expected to grow at an annual rate of around 5% over the coming years.

As the two businesses noted, increasing demand has been met by increasing the total acreage under cacao cultivation. However, this approach has come at a high cost in terms of deforestation and environmental degradation.

Furthermore, as part of its Cocoa for Generations strategy, Mars Incorporated has committed to meeting its future cacao needs through a 100% sustainable supply-chain. Cocoa for Generations is how Mars intends to step-change efforts, lead the way and invite others to partner with them in a new approach to increase farmer income, protect children and preserve forests today, and crack the code on a model of modern sustainable cocoa farming for tomorrow.

The company acknowledged that achieving a 100% sustainable supply-chain will not be an easy task – especially since the cacao crop will increasingly compete with other crops such as oil palm and rubber for available farmland. Improved agronomic practices will help achieve this goal, but alone will not be sufficient.

The key will be to significantly increase the genetic potential of cacao to produce higher yields and improved quality on the same or even less farmland. With this goal in mind, Mars has engaged Nature Source Improved Plants (NSIP) in a collaborative project to accelerate the development of new cacao varieties with higher yields, increased disease resistance and improved quality.

Nature Source Improved Plants (NSIP) is an advanced optimisation analytics company located in New York, USA and Chiapas, Mexico; and dedicated to the conservation, evaluation and utilisation of natural genetic resources to deliver high performing plant materials and creating value and efficiency through innovative and sustainable cutting-edge technologies for the global community.

NSIP is focused on maximising genetic performance via a unique pipeline of new breeding technologies based on genomics, operations research and other advanced fields of mathematics and computer science.

The company’s NSIP’s advanced genetics and breeding technologies have resulted in a multifold increase in productivity and quality across a wide variety of field, vegetable, perennial and orphan crops, while minimising R&D costs. NSIP is also focused on the development of high throughput and high fidelity in vitro propagation techniques to meet the needs of growers – especially those involved in the production of perennial plantation crops.

Dr. Steven Tanksley, Chief Technology Officer, NSIP, said: “NSIP is excited to be providing both its expertise and advanced analytical tools in this collaboration with Mars to develop and offer higher yielding, more resistance and higher quality cacao varieties for the benefit of farmers and consumers worldwide.”

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