Nestlé creates ag research institute: ‘We want to bring the most promising approaches and solutions to farmers’

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

From low-carbon dairy farming to plant-science, Nestle hopes to drive innovation in agriculture / Pic: iStock-Brekbit
From low-carbon dairy farming to plant-science, Nestle hopes to drive innovation in agriculture / Pic: iStock-Brekbit

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Swiss food giant Nestlé is beefing up its capabilities in agricultural research in a bid to support the transition towards a regenerative food system and deliver its net zero roadmap.

Nestlé has created the Nestlé Institute of Agricultural Sciences, a move it hopes will help it support and accelerate the ‘large-scale changes’ that are needed in the way agricultural raw materials are produced and sourced.

The Institute will focus on the areas of plant science, dairy livestock and agricultural systems science. 

"Our transition towards a regenerative food system is enabled by agricultural science and new agricultural technologies. The new institute will accelerate the translation of science into concrete solutions that can be implemented at farm level, to support farmers globally in improving their environmental footprint, in reducing food and nutrient losses, and in better adapting to climate change while ensuring the quality of the raw materials they produce,”​ commented Stefan Palzer, Nestlé CTO.

Building on existing expertise

The Nestlé Institute of Agricultural Sciences builds on existing work and expertise in agricultural science, the company stressed. Programs already implemented in the agricultural sector include the Nestlé Cocoa Plan and the Nescafé Plan. This research has delivered scientific discoveries such as the recently announced high-yield, drought and disease resistant coffee varieties. Nestlé experts are also working on identifying the most suitable pulses and grains to provide low carbon, plant-based alternatives to meat, seafood and dairy.

This ‘strong focus’ on plant science will be further strengthened and extended to additional crops, the company revealed today.

The Institute also aims to reduce emissions in dairy farming, develop regenerative agriculture practices, and to improve biodiversity and soil health. New approaches to upcycling agricultural side streams that reduce nutrient loss and food waste will also be on the agenda.

"The work in agricultural sciences will complement our broad expertise at Nestlé Research, ranging from food safety to health science, material science and packaging. We will leverage our scientific breadth to drive holistic approaches, contributing to concrete solutions and innovation applied throughout the value chain, including in products,”​ elaborated Isabelle Bureau-Franz, Head of Nestlé Research.

Collaboration key

Researchers will work in ‘close collaboration’ with internal and external partners to assess and combine science-based solutions to improve the nutritional and sensorial qualities of ingredients while lowering the environmental impact of agricultural production.

Announcing the investment, Nestlé said the new Institute will work alongside academic institutions and research organizations, start-ups, industry partners and farmers to assess and develop science-based solutions and adapt them for implementation and scale-up across the company’s supply chain’.

The ambition is to deliver benefits that also have a positive impact on the livelihoods and incomes of farmers. It will rely on new and existing collaborations, such as the research program with ETHZ to reduce the carbon footprint of agricultural products.

Jeroen Dijkman, Head of the Institute of Agricultural Sciences, said: "At the institute we will screen a wide variety of science-based agricultural solutions and assess their potential for reducing the environmental footprint of key agricultural raw materials. Together with our research and industry partners we want to bring the most promising approaches and solutions to farmers and contribute to their transition to regenerative practices with scalable and impactful applications."

As part of Nestlé's global research organization, the institute will be based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The facilities are due to be formally inaugurated later this year. It will also include the company’s plant science unit in France, as well as existing cocoa, coffee, and dairy research farms based in Ecuador, Côte d'Ivoire, Thailand and Switzerland.

Nestlé invests yearly CHF 1.7 billion in research and development, involving more than 4,000 people on 23 sites around the world.

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