Coffee, cocoa and soy giants embrace geospatial tech and


Satellite image of Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

24 Aug 2023 — Leading ingredient suppliers Tradin Organic, Cargill and ofi are harnessing satellite monitoring solutions and AI to advance supply chain transparency as Europe prepares for the new EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR). These corporations are also increasingly supporting smallholder farmers with sustainable farming initiatives, recognizing the risks their exclusion from value chains could pose to reforestation efforts. 

The EUDR requires companies to ensure products sold in the EU have not led to deforestation, affecting commodities including coffee, cocoa, palm oil and soy. Suppliers must provide a “due diligence” statement confirming that their products have not come from deforested land since 2021.

The new legislation means companies now need to prove faster and in greater detail that forest degradation is not occurring in their sourcing regions. These demands are encouraging them to invest in digitization projects to obtain extensive GPS information and help establish sustainable farming operations.

Headstart for organic
Research and satellite data suggest that the cultivation of popular commodities like cocoa, coffee and soy are often connected to deforestation, but organic production areas are an exception. The problem, according to Anne Floor van Dalfsen, sustainability manager at Tradin Organic, is that only a small percentage of agricultural production is certified.

“Organic certification already required full traceability to farmers,” she tells Food Ingredients First. “This law allows us to show what has been evident to us for a long time: organic agriculture leads to higher transparency in the supply chain, effective long-term relationships with supplying cooperatives and rewarding farming practices that nourish ecosystems.”

A coffee bean farmer in Indonesia.Pulling out of high-risk supply chains does not solve deforestation as it may drive farmers into less regulated markets.The organic ingredients supplier has partnered with Smallholdr, a cutting-edge software tool that provides full traceability to field-level by collecting vast data. Its mobile app and web platform manage certifications, facilitate deforestation-free claims and measure the real impact of farming initiatives.

“Smallholdr is also used to make planning and managing field data much easier. Using advanced GPS functionalities, our field staff can collect field shapes or polygons, which are essential requirements for the upcoming regulations,” explains van Dalfsen.

Meanwhile, Tradin Organic is embarking on a project with Dutch NGO Fairfood to create a Due Diligence Dashboard, enabling it to connect all its open data sets and live data from the field.

“The tech is going to be open-source, as we want every company to join in boosting transparency in food supply chains and rewarding farmers to share high-quality data,” says van Dalfsen. 

Artificial Intelligence
Meanwhile, Cargill has reinforced its efforts to protect forests by leveraging satellite-powered risk monitoring capabilities across its cocoa, soy and palm oil supply chains. The food corporation has adopted Satelligence’s AI-based solutions to boost its progress toward deforestation-free supply chains by 2030.

“The system uses the latest AI and machine learning techniques to enhance the quality of input imagery and rapidly and accurately process these images into information on the distribution of crops and deforestation incidences worldwide,” Niels Wielaard, Satelligence’s CEO and founder, tells us.

“Broadly speaking, the system unburdens and empowers F&B companies to meet their sustainable sourcing and climate targets by giving visibility into their supply chain relations and independently verified proof of no deforestation and carbon sequestration levels across complex global supply chains.”

Cargill claims to have already mapped 100% of its direct soy suppliers in Brazil, 100% of grains purchased directly in South America and is actively mapping in other regions as part of a “comprehensive look at our supply chains.”

Deforestation risk indices
At the same time, ofi’s teams on the ground across its sourcing origins are using geospatial technology to map the company’s sourcing regions at farm-level and proactively screen suppliers using its Landscape Deforestation and Farm Deforestation Risk Indices (LDRI and FDRI).

“These risk scores are updated annually and shared with customers via our sustainability management system, AtSource. Global deforestation risk analyses cover all our coffee and cocoa supply chains, applicable at a landscape, jurisdictional or farm-level,” Benjamin Wielgosz, geospatial development manager at ofi, tells Food Ingredients First.Satellite circling the Earth.Satellite-powered risk monitoring solutions can provide companies with the GPS data they need to meet the EUDR’s requirements.

The company links farms and farming landscapes to live deforestation alerts through a co-development partnership with Global Forest Watch Pro, which leverages industry-leading traceability and farm mapping in direct supply chains using GPS pins or polygons.

“We have GPS or polygon mapped for more than 400,000 individual smallholder farms across the globe so that we can accurately track and monitor the history of deforestation and land use change emissions,” says Wielgosz.

Last year, ofi collaborated with NGIS, a Google geospatial partner, to build a carbon monitoring tool that combines these mapped farms with machine learning on remote sensing data from NASA and the European Space Agency to measure gains and losses in carbon stocks on farms.

“This carbon monitoring data will help to better manage and improve carbon sequestration, which supports efforts to improve soil health, biodiversity, livelihoods, reduce GHG emissions and meet our Science Based Target Initiative targets to reduce Scope 3 emissions,” explains Wielgosz.

Smallholder farms
In light of the EUDR, concerns have surfaced that the new rules requiring farms to be mapped by GPS coordinates will financially burden small-scale cocoa and coffee suppliers and potentially exclude them from international supply chains. Critics have also questioned whether the law lacks the scope to incentivize regenerative agriculture.

As Wielgosz at ofi illustrates, simply pulling out of high-risk supply chains does not solve the deforestation problem as it may drive farmers into less regulated markets and limit access to the knowledge they need to grow their businesses sustainably.

“We need to target high-priority landscapes and offer farmers sustainable incomes that protect and restore forests so that our products become part of the solution, not part of the problem,” he says.Woman farmer in Africa.Regenerative food systems can boost economic growth and equality in poorer regions of the world.

The company’s cocoa business aims to help 150,000 cocoa farmers earn a living income by 2030 while also providing livelihood support to all farmers in its sustainability programs, including Arabica coffee bean producers in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.

Smallholder farms are crucial to global food supply considering that most of the commodities included within the EUDR’s scope are produced by small-scale operations.

“You have no choice but to work with them, but we’re happy to, as you’re literally giving these families an income and livelihood,” says van Dalfsen at Tradin Organic. But regenerative organic farming systems is where she foresees most sustainability potential.

“These systems are more resilient to natural and socio-economic shocks and reduce dependencies on external inputs and food supply. They also contribute to economic growth, gender inclusion and (youth) employment, leading to an increase in farmers’ confidence in the future.”

In several origins, Tradin Organic is piloting carbon monitoring and valorization projects. In Sierra Leone, for example, the company established a Child Protection Program and Agroforestry Project.

We recently took a closer look at Cargill’s deforestation-free, smallholder farming initiatives, including a project that helps protect forests and native vegetation across South America.

By Joshua Poole

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