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Nestlé running two-year trial using cocoa husks as low-carbon fertilizer on UK farms

Food behemoth Nestlé is breaking new ground with a two-year UK pilot program that evaluates cocoa shells as a low-carbon alternative to synthetic fertilizers. The cocoa shells are sourced from Cargill's York facility, which processes the cocoa that ends in Nestlé chocolate bars like KitKat and Aero. Normally considered waste material, cocoa shells are now turned into pellets that farmers can use on their fields. Trials are underway at wheat farms in the region.

In the UK, over half of the carbon footprint of wheat production is attributed to fertilizer use. (Production and use of nitrogen fertilizers account for approximately 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.) If Nestlé's pilot is successful, it could produce up to 7,000 metric tons of cocoa fertilizer, enough for 25% of wheat grown for the company in the UK. Preliminary findings from Rookery Farm in Norfolk indicate that the upcycled, natural fertilizer performs just as well as its synthetic counterpart.

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When companies as large as Nestlé start rethinking their waste chains, impact can be made on an equally massive scale. While upcycled cocoa shells as fertilizer may catch our attention now, repurposing 'waste' materials should become such a regular way of doing business that concepts like these are no longer viewed as innovative — just standard operating procedure. By involving regional farms that supply wheat to Nestlé, the initiative also closes a loop and aligns with increasing consumer interest in community-based solutions to tackling climate change.

Innovation of the day