For cocoa manufacturing company Mars, embracing FarmGrow was an easy decision. Kim Frankovich, the vice president of cocoa sustainability at Mars Wrigley, explains that the reason her company is a “supporter, enabler, and champion” of FarmGrow is because of the benefits it offers the industry.
FarmGrow is a digital application that functions as a long-term individualized coaching plan, helping smallholder farmers use responsible methods to increase productivity on existing cocoa land as much as three-fold. The application combines very detailed farmer household profile data with the agronomic status of cocoa plots to create a business plan, complete with a profit-and-loss statement tailored to the individual farm and household. Because aging cocoa trees, declining soil quality, and climate-related problems have challenged the cocoa supply chain, farmer group trainings are used often in a hope to turn the tide. But Frankovich points out, “you can teach best practices but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re adopted.”
That is why FarmGrow’s data collection tool provides tracking mechanisms—quality assurance that individualized farming plans are being implemented. “It also functions as a way of engaging personally with farmers so that they feel part of the process,” says Frankovich.
Frankovich says one of the greatest benefits of FarmGrow is the combination of the farmers’ individualized improvement plans with the personalized coaching—and having it all on one platform. “For us, to have data being aggregated and farms being assessed in one place is a huge efficiency gain,” she says. The tool also allows manufacturers to report back to farmers so they can continuously improve. “We can look at it holistically—look at the data across all farmers—and begin to see what’s working and what’s not, and see the trends and opportunities for the farmers to learn from each other,’ added Frankovich.
She says that even at these early stages, the interactions with farmers have shown great promise. “Seeing them learn about their own farm, and seeing benefit—it’s like, “hey, I think we have something here and I’m willing to do the work”—is a really powerful interaction.”
Implementing FarmGrow is a significant and long-term investment for manufacturers, Frankovich says, but it’s well worth it to achieve a more sustainable and plentiful cocoa supply in the years to come.
FarmGrow is all about intensive personal engagement with thousands of farmers in the major cocoa producing areas of the world, requiring many coaches in the field who are supporting farmers on how to produce more cocoa without negative effects on the environment. To monitor this at scale, consistent information on landscape level is required, this is where remote sensing technologies come in.
Most of the world’s cocoa is produced by smallholder farmers, who all too often live in severe poverty. The struggle to make a decent living is getting tougher as farmers grapple with aging trees, declining soil fertility and a whole host of new challenges arising from unpredictable weather conditions to increased outbreaks of pests and diseases.
Touton, on-boarded coaches among its own staff to guide cocoa farmers participating in FarmGrow on a personal basis in order to help them implement their seven-year farming plans.
Precision agriculture technologies for the cocoa industry in West Africa and Indonesia is often deemed far-fetched. Smallholder farmers in these regions, however, are susceptible to negative changes in the environment and often lack timely, site specific and actionable advice.