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Mars, Benson Hill announce partnership for climate resilience of cocoa farming

The cacao tree

ST. LOUIS and MCLEAN, Va., U.S. — Benson Hill Biosystems, a crop improvement company unlocking the natural genetic diversity of plants, and Mars, Incorporated, a family-owned global pet care, confectionery and food business, today announced a strategic partnership to improve the productivity and climate resilience of the cacao tree, essential to chocolate production.

Healthy, productive cacao trees benefit the millions of smallholder farmers globally who depend on the trees for their livelihood, but climate change and increasing disease pressure put production at risk.

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Mars has committed to sustainability throughout its operations, including sharing its expertise in science and technology to enable farmers to plant high-yielding, climate resistant, water and nutrient use efficient and disease-resistant cacao.

“We want to enable farmers to produce more cocoa from less land,” said Dr. Howard Shapiro, Chief Agricultural Officer of Mars.

“Benson Hill has built an impressive data and machine learning platform designed to provide insights that can improve crops faster.  By tapping into the natural genetic diversity of cacao, we can speed up the evolutionary process necessary for improved productivity, disease resistance and resiliency to climate change.”

Benson Hill empowers organizations of any size across the agri-food value chain to benefit from the most advanced tools in seed innovation. Benson Hill’s CropOS™ computational platform and suite of breeding and genome editing tools leverage the natural genetic diversity of plants to improve the sustainability, nutrition and flavor profiles of crops with greater precision than previously possible, dramatically improving the cost and timelines to develop new products.

Ray Schnell, Plant Science Discipline Leader, Corporate Innovation at Mars said, “Mars has invested in cacao breeding for over 20 years including sequencing the genome of important parental lines and evaluating large progeny trials.

By leveraging Breed, powered by CropOS, we aim to use predictive analytics to significantly accelerate the cacao cultivar development program, which will benefit cacao breeders and farmers globally.”

“Mars is a leader in considering the social and environmental dimensions of food production,” said Matt Crisp, CEO of Benson Hill Biosystems.

“Their commitment to crop innovation and cross-sector collaboration represents a progressive approach needed to address complex challenges in our food system. Our team looks forward to working together for the benefit of both farmers and consumers.”