Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

Louis Dreyfus, Cargill, Bunge and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) announced they will be working together as part of an industry-wide collaboration to make agricultural shipping transactions completely standardised and digital. The companies explained that using blockchain technology and artificial intelligence (AI) would significantly reduce costs as well as improve transparency. The process, which has already started in grain and oilseed operations, should gradually be deployed for other commodities.

With this in mind, ADM and Cargill announced a joint venture called Grainbridge, a digital grains marketing platform to help farmers in North America market their grains. Cargill said the platform will be free and will let farmers use technology, such as data analytics, to improve their profitability. The platform is open to other grain companies too which will encourage farmers to use the ADM and Cargill transactions and contracts.

In the US, Cargill announced it developed robots to herd animals at its plants, including cattle and eventually turkeys, in a bid to improve animal welfare as well as to protect workers. The robot was approved by a famous animal behaviourist who said it was “a major innovation in the handling and welfare of farm animals.” The robot doesn’t look much like a human cowboy (you can check it out here) but it will be saying ‘Hey! Hey! Hey!’ to move the cows along. In Europe, Cargill announced it launched its Waxy Corn Promise program, an initiative to help it sustainably source all of its waxy corn – a type of corn used to produce starches.

Separately, Cargill Aqua Nutrition said it would not tolerate soy suppliers who violate its code of conduct, including deforestation. The announcement was made after a WWF report said that soybean demand had turned Brazil’s Cerrado area, one of the world’s most biodiverse places, into the planet’s most endangered region. Environmentalists are concerned the situation is about to get worse if Brazil’s newly elected president goes ahead with his plan to merge the ministries of agriculture and the environment. Similarly, the head of Greenpeace in Argentina said that “Argentina is in a forest emergency.” Nearly 25% of the country’s native forest has been cleared, with a big part going to grow soybean. An EU-based NGO said there was pretty much no traceability of soybean in the country.

Mondelez announced it would extend its Cocoa Life program to Brazil, a cocoa-sourcing sustainability program it already operates in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, India and the Dominican Republic. The program will aim to reduce deforestation in the Amazon as well as improve the welfare of farmers through yield improvements, among other things. This comes at a time when IRAdvocates, the human rights advocacy group which is suing Nestle and Cargill for aiding and abetting child slavery in West Africa, said it is planning to attack other chocolate makers, including Mars. IRAdvocates argued that any company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast was complicit in using child labour. Nestle said that the companies that were working the hardest to end child labour were being targeted.

Going back to the WWF report, it also found that the world had lost over half of its invertebrate species between 1970 and 2014 as a result of increasing demand for food, water and energy. The report argued that the risk of water species disappearing was particularly high because of plastic pollution.

Tesco and Nestle announced they joined the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), a 91-member initiative which works to eradicate the number of nets and other fishing gear debris in the oceans, estimated to account for 10% of marine debris. Similarly, Danone said that by 2025  100% of its packaging should be ‘circular,’ by which it means recyclable, reusable or compostable, compared to 86% currently.

The concept of ‘circularity’ is also taking hold among those trying to combat food wastage. Researchers from a university in the UK have been looking at ‘circular economic thinking’ from the second world war as an inspiration, such as how to efficiently redistribute unsold food. Further up the supply chain, Maersk announced the second edition of its Food Track program which funds startups that look for technological solutions to the 1.3 billion mt of annual global food wastage.

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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