The move is seen as part of an ongoing effort to build a more resilient and sustainable cocoa sector, from one of the world’s biggest suppliers of the commodity.
"Environmental challenges and the growing demand for cocoa products are putting increasing 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 collaborate across industries on bold experiments to increase the productivity and resilience of traditional cocoa farming. 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."
A spokesperson for the project said this latest research collaboration combines AeroFarms' expertise in controlled farming with Cargill's in-depth knowledge of cocoa agronomy and production processes.
Together, the two organisations will experiment with various indoor growing technologies, including aeroponics and hydroponics, light, carbon dioxide, irrigation, nutrient supply, plant space and pruning, to determine the optimal conditions for cocoa trees to grow.
It is expected the results will lead to new insights targeting factors such as faster tree growth and higher yields, accelerated development of varieties with higher resistance to pests and diseases, and unleashing the full flavour and colour potential of the cocoa bean.
The outcome will be to help secure future supplies of cocoa beans against the backdrop of climate change.
“AeroFarms shares a vision similar to Cargill's, which is to feed the world safely, responsibly and sustainably,” said David Rosenberg, Co-Founder and CEO of AeroFarms.
“We have grown over 550 different crops and are excited to be working with Cargill on another project that this time will focus on cocoa.
“At AeroFarms, we see our proprietary technology as a platform for optimizing plant biology, genetics, mechanical systems, operating systems, environmental systems and digital controls, as well as data acquisition and analysis. Genetics and speed breeding are one of the vertical areas we focus on.”
Initial preparatory work has already begun on the project at AeroFarms' global headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, and will soon be expanded to include the company's vertical indoor farm AeroFarms AgX Research & Development in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which is due to open in 2022.