Cargill plays a pivotal role in the global food supply chain with their involvement in the production, processing, and distribution of agricultural commodities, from grains to oilseeds to animal feed and proteins. With a strong emphasis on sustainable and responsible business practices, Cargill is dedicated to nourishing the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way.
Demand for edible oils is growing by 4% annually. As the highest-yielding oilseed crop, palm is well suited to meet this growing demand because it uses less land per ton of oil produced than any other vegetable oil.
Cargill Tropical Oils operates sizeable oil palm plantations and works with a network of smallholder farmers in Indonesia. In the plantations, nitrogen-based fertilisers are commonly used to increase yield. However, sustainability and economic considerations arise: the former as a number of greenhouse gases are emitted, and the latter as they are subject to frequent cost fluctuations.
Cargill routinely conducts evaluations on the effectiveness of fertilisers used by collecting, processing and evaluating data on fertiliser application and crop growth. However, there are limitations associated with their current collection and evaluation methods.
Firstly, checks are currently done via manual sampling of the soil and leaf (at 2% of land size). This is tedious and manpower intensive, hence it is difficult to achieve an ideal sampling size of 5%. Confounding factors include limitations of existing test equipment and methods, and varying soil or terrain conditions. As a result, it is a challenge to fully optimise the fertiliser-to-yield ratio on oil palm plantations.
Secondly, the outcome of any change in the fertiliser volume or type used on the plantations inherently cannot be immediately observed or accurately predicted. This is because the palm crop cycle requires a minimum of two years to respond to a new fertiliser regime.
Other variables such as weather conditions may also have effects on the effectiveness of the fertiliser regime, but the means to incorporate or model the impact of these variables is lacking.
How might we collect accurate and actionable insights on fertiliser effects, so that fertiliser use can be optimised on oil palm plantations and smallholder plots?
To overcome the aforementioned challenges, Cargill wants to evaluate alternative indicators that may exist as proxies for growth, which overcome the palm crop growth cycle. They are also keen to explore a range of solutions that utilise the extensive data they have collected to reduce manual labour involved, and also through analytics, determine if there are other factors they should track. In general, any solution optimising fertiliser type and use is welcome.
The solution should result in:
- 20% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (per metric ton of crude palm oil) attributable to fertiliser application; AND
- A minimum 20% decrease in fertiliser expenditure.
The pilot will be held on a Cargill oil palm plantation in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. The aim is to complete the Proof-of-Concept (POC) scoping in three months, with a corresponding POC agreement to execute. There is an opportunity for scale-up deployment if the POC is successful.
Resources and incentives
Cargill will provide support worth S$10,000 or depending on the final scope of the pilot project. In addition, the selected innovator can expect support from agronomists, data scientists, IT personnel or other relevant stakeholders at Cargill.
Check out the recording from our Info Session, where Cargill shared more about their challenge statement.
Market Potential / Business Opportunity
Cargill Tropical Oils has sizeable palm plantations in Indonesia where a successfully piloted solution can be deployed.
Cargill is looking for innovators that can execute in Southeast Asia, specifically Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore. They welcome applications globally.