The value for cocoa manufacturers

22 November 2019

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.

“You can teach best practices but that doesn't necessarily mean they're adopted”

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.