Nestlé transforming cocoa husks into low-carbon fertiliser

Wednesday, 20 September, 2023

Nestlé transforming cocoa husks into low-carbon fertiliser

In the UK, Nestlé is launching a pilot to assess whether cocoa shells from a York confectionery site can be used to create a low-carbon fertiliser. It will be a two-year trial, designed to evaluate the fertiliser’s performance on crop production, soil health and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

If successful, up to 7000 tonnes of low-carbon fertiliser could be produced and offered to farmers in Nestlé’s UK wheat supply chain. This amount of fertiliser equates to around 25% of Nestlé UK’s total wheat fertiliser use.

The production and use of conventional fertiliser accounts for approximately 5% of global GHG emissions and more than half of the carbon footprint of wheat grown in the UK is related to fertiliser use.

Recycling nutrients from waste streams within the food system is an opportunity to create a lower emissions supply chain. Scaling up low-carbon fertiliser production can provide farmers with a more sustainable product at a reliable price.

The cocoa shells are supplied by Cargill, which processes cocoa at its York facility to become key ingredients in products like KitKat and Aero. A trial volume of cocoa shell has been processed and pelletised by CCm Technologies, based in Swindon.

According to Matt Ryan, Regeneration Lead at Nestlé UK & Ireland, farmers are often among the first to be exposed to global issues, risking the food system everyone depends on. Optimising the use of natural resources could be an opportunity to build more resilience into the system.

“This project is a small, but very meaningful step towards a net zero future, where farmers, local enterprises and nature all stand to benefit,” Ryan said.

The trials were designed and are being overseen by York-based Fera Science. They are currently taking place on farms in Suffolk and Northamptonshire.

Richard Ling, farm manager at Rookery Farm, which supplies wheat to Nestlé Purina, said, “We have now finished harvesting, and we’ve successfully grown a winter wheat crop using this new fertiliser. We've compared two parts of the field, one which used the cocoa shell fertiliser, and one which used the conventional fertiliser. There is no significant difference in the yield, so we can see that it works.”

Regenerative agriculture is a key element of Nestlé’s Cocoa Plan, as it works closely with farmers in countries like Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana to create a more sustainable supply chain for cocoa.

Image caption: Low-carbon fertiliser pilot. Image credit: Nestlé

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