Food and beverage giant Nestlé announced today the launch of a new pilot project aimed at producing low carbon fertilizer using cocoa shells, and addressing a major source of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture has emerged as a major focus area for climate action, as the sector accounts for a significant proportion of GHG emissions, and is among the most difficult areas to address climate impact. The sector contributes a significant proportion of the climate impact of the food and beverage sector, which in turn accounts for approximately a third of global GHG emissions.

Under the new UK-based project, Nestlé, one the world’s largest corporate cocoa consumers, will assess whether cocoa shells from a confectionery site in York can be used to create a low-carbon fertilizer. The two-year trial will evaluate the fertilizer’s performance on crop production, soil health and GHG emissions. If the project is successful, the company said that up to 7,000 tonnes of low-carbon fertilizer, roughly 25% the total used for the company’s UK wheat production, could be produced and offered to farmers in its UK wheat supply chain.

Nestlé announced a commitment in 2019 to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, and in 2020 the company published its “time bound plan” to reach its climate goals, which also include targets to achieve a 20% emissions reduction by 2025 and 50% by 2030.

95% of Nestlé’s GHG emissions come from the company’s value chain, including around two-thirds from sourcing ingredients, and only around 5% from its direct operations. One of the company’s key emissions reduction initiatives includes advancing regenerative agriculture and farming practices, such as improving soil health, integrating trees into livestock foraging areas, switching to organic fertilizers and increasing the ability of farmland to store carbon.

In addition to heling the company reach its climate goals, Nestlé said that increasing production of low carbon fertilizer can also provide farmers with a more sustainable product at a reliable price.

Matt Ryan, Regeneration Lead at Nestlé UK & Ireland, said:

“Farmers often find themselves to be among the first groups exposed to global issues, and these risks are then borne by the food system we all depend upon. We have to find ways to build more resilience into the system and optimizing our use of natural resources is a critical part of this. This project is a small, but very meaningful step towards a net zero future, where farmers, local enterprises, and nature all stand to benefit.”