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Innovation solves problems — including, say our leaders, the threats facing our planet.

December 07, 2021

If you could travel back in time to the dawn of human history, there would be at least one familiar sight: agriculture. Our story changed when we learned to settle and farm the land. Every aspect of our collective success is intricately tied to it. So is our future.

A growing population is forcing farmers to increase food production exponentially; at the same time, the industry is dealing with unprecedented changes to the planet itself, manifested in rising temperatures, climate upheaval and waning natural resources.

For Cargill, feeding a growing population while addressing climate change is not merely a challenge, it’s a mission. To succeed in it, we must be more sustainable and more innovative than ever.

“Agriculture was humankind’s first and most important technological advancement, Florian Schattenmann, Chief Technology Officer, recently said during a conversation with Chief Sustainability Officer Pilar Cruz.

The leaders discussed why Cargill’s sustainability strategy and innovation focus are interwoven. The glue that holds them together: agriculture.

“We believe in the power of agricultural innovation to positively impact the environment and nourish our growing world,” Florian said. ​​​​​​​

What’s innovation good for?

We can answer that question in one simple phrase: to solve problems.

However, Cargill’s innovation strategy is far from simple.

Our technical capabilities are broad and diverse: from analytics to nutritional science; from fermentation to biofuels.

Cargill’s global Research & Development (R&D) network includes chemists, food scientists, chemical engineers, microbiologists, biotechnologists, culinary specialists, nutritionists and many others trained in scientific and technical disciplines.

These experts are from a wide range of disciplines, experiences, cultures and perspectives, coming together to develop state-of-the-art products, programs, tools and services that enable our customers to do more with less.

But innovation isn’t limited to our R&D teams; everyone can play a role by identifying big challenges or problems our customers encounter and then working with their partners to deliver solutions.

Yet, as Florian explains, there’s one more component that makes innovation at Cargill a true differentiator. ​​​​​​​

“Historically, innovation’s been about making things better or cheaper,” he says. “Going forward, we need to add another dimension: it must also be good for the planet.”

 

Indeed, sustainability is a business imperative for Cargill’s operations around the globe: our customers ask for it, our consumers demand it, and our stakeholders and partners want Cargill to take the lead in developing lasting, sustainable environmental change.

“It’s why we’ve doubled down on critical areas like climate, land and water, and social sustainability,” Pilar explains. “We looked across our business to evaluate where we have the most significant environmental, social and economic impact and set goals in the areas where we can make the greatest difference.”​​​​​​​

But for that positive impact to be significant across the agricultural supply chain, innovation must be closely involved. How are we getting it done? Here are four examples:

Alternative protein.

The term — which refers to cultured, plant-based and other sources of protein — may cause some concern to traditional protein customers and consumers. That’s not Cargill’s vision. As Florian explains, the conversation regarding protein should be a “yes, and” argument, not an “either or” discussion.

Considering that the demand for protein is expected to rise by more than 70% over the next three decades, innovation can bring creative but also responsible solutions. Meeting the protein needs of a growing population “will take all of us working together,” Florian says. “This includes both traditional and alternative protein producers.”

BeefUp Sustainability.

Innovation is already helping farmers, ranchers and agribusiness reduce their impact on the environment. Through the BeefUp Sustainability initiative, Cargill is creating opportunities for customers, conservation organizations, farmers and ranchers across the North American beef supply chain to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.

Cargill, its customers and other partners are investing in evidence-based programs to accelerate progress in four key areas: grazing management, feed production, food waste reduction and technology. These are the building blocks for a culture of best practices aimed at removing barriers for farmers and ranchers who want to be more efficient with their resources, and more sustainable in their operations.

Gut health.

In recent years, and especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been rising interest in gut health. That’s why Cargill’s teams are researching the microbiome’s complex ecosystem to nurture its natural capacity to promote health in people, livestock, and pets in all of life’s stages.

“We’re researching key aspects of gut health and exploring the power of pre-, pro- and post-biotics to create more shelf-stable ingredients,” Florian explains.

In fact, scientists across the company are using fermentation, plant-based phytogenics and essential oils as they search for new solutions in animal and human health.

Anova Asphalt Rejuvenator.

That’s not the only way Cargill’s innovating using bio-based products. One of our teams developed a vegetable oil-based additive that brings new life to used asphalt, making it more pliable. ​​​​​​​

Accurately named Anova Asphalt Rejuvenator, this adhesive innovation delivers bonding strength from renewable resources, such as corn and soybeans, and can be used by road construction asphalt manufacturers, municipal transportation agencies, refineries and terminals.

It's one way to get more out of our natural resources — the only way to support a growing population on our resource-constrained planet.

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