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Cargill harnesses AI-enhanced satellite monitoring for anti-deforestation supply chains

August 13, 2023
Food & Drink

Cargill is bolstering its efforts to protect forests by leveraging satellite-powered risk monitoring capabilities across its soy, palm oil and cocoa supply chains. The food corporation will utilize Satelligence’s AI-based solutions to boost its progress toward deforestation-free supply chains by 2030.

“Uniquely positioned” to help lead the transition to sustainable food systems given its extensive size and reach, Cargill views partnerships with technologists like geospatial sustainability company Satelligence as crucial.

“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 Food Ingredients First.

“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 has 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,” the agri-food giant tells us.

Regulatory heat
In Europe, the pressure on industry players to combat deforestation recently intensified after the European Parliament voted in favor of a new law requiring companies to ensure products sold in the EU have not come from deforested land since 2021.

Satellite-based solutions are expected to help corporations meet the law’s due diligence requirements, but smallholder farmers are concerned that the financial cost of new technologies could price them out of supply chains.

Another criticism of the new law is that it lacks the scope to incentivize forest regeneration, which is seen as important given that the world has reportedly already lost one-third of its forests.

Cargill is addressing this challenge in Brazil by working to restore ~100,000 hectares of altered land in the next five years – equivalent in size to New York City. This restoration is capable of sequestering 14 MM tCO2 and the corporation currently has 34 active projects on the ground to help achieve this goal.

The company has also partnered with Banco do Brasil – one of the country’s largest financial institutions – to direct US$240 million to support sustainable practices in the Brazilian energy, agricultural and food products export supply chains.

South American rainforests
Cargill has targeted a 10% GHG reduction in its operations by 2025 and a 30% GHG reduction in its supply chain per ton of product sold by 2023.

According to Matt Wood, the company’s global impact data, analytics and technology leader, mitigating the impact of climate change is crucial to global food security while protecting vital ecosystems plays a central role. “That is why we are laser-focused on deforestation-free initiatives,” he says.

For example, The Land Innovation Fund for Sustainable Livelihoods – which Cargill launched with a commitment of US$30 million – supports projects that will help protect forests and native vegetation across South America.

“Through the fund, we are working to accelerate the development and implementation of innovative and economically viable options for farmers in South America as alternatives to converting biologically significant forests and other native vegetation,” a company spokesperson tells Food Ingredients First.

Wood adds: “In addition to our monitoring work with partners like Satelligence, we are also accelerating our efforts and investment with new programs that will protect and restore essential landscapes while providing meaningful pathways for farmers to advance their livelihoods.”

The methodologies behind Satelligence’s solution are open-source, science-based and certified by Ernst & Young. The technology also provides local context through an understanding of supply chains and differences in dynamics between geographies.

In related news, Cargill recently teamed up with Mars, Walmart, Costco, World Wildlife Fund and Finance Earth to jointly launch a concept to finance the transition to more sustainable fisheries.

In its latest financial update, the company revealed a record fiscal revenue of US$177 billion – a 7% increase from last year.

By Joshua Poole


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