SWITZERLAND – In response to the growing threats posed by climate change to coffee cultivation, Nestlé is taking significant steps to ensure the sustainability of the industry.  

Through advanced data science and artificial intelligence, Nestlé experts are spearheading efforts to develop more climate-resilient coffee plants. 

While arabica coffee constitutes 70% of the world’s production, it is particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures and diseases associated with climate change. To address these challenges, Nestlé’s plant scientists are focusing on breeding new arabica varieties with improved resistance to disease and drought while maintaining high yields. 

A crucial development in this endeavor is the creation of a high-quality arabica reference genome, facilitated by advanced data science methods.  

This reference genome serves as a comprehensive map of the arabica genome, enabling scientists to identify genetic markers responsible for desired traits such as yield, disease resistance, and flavor characteristics. 

Jeroen Dijkman, Head of Nestlé’s Institute of Agricultural Sciences, said: “In simple terms, our new reference is like a high-quality map of a big city. It will help us identify key genetic markers in the arabica genome that are responsible for specific traits in adult plants. This will help our plant scientists, and other experts to better identify, select and breed new and improved arabica coffee varieties.” 

Published in Nature Genetics, the work represents a milestone in plant research, showcasing Nestlé’s commitment to innovation and sustainability.  

Patrick Descombes, Senior Expert in Genomics at Nestlé Research, highlighted the exceptional quality of the arabica reference genome, achieved through state-of-the-art genomics approaches. 

Collaborating with the French National Institute for Sustainable Development and other academic partners, Nestlé’s efforts underscore the importance of collective action in advancing sustainable agriculture. 

In parallel with these scientific endeavors, Nestlé is actively supporting coffee farmers in its sourcing origins through initiatives like the Nescafé Plan 2030.  

By distributing over 6 million elite coffee plantlets in 2022, Nestlé is contributing to the adoption of improved coffee varieties and enhancing farmer livelihoods. 

In addition to its internal initiatives, Nestlé subsidiary Nespresso is investing US$20 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to revitalize specialty coffee production.  

This investment, part of the Nespresso Reviving Origins program, aims to support coffee farmers, promote sustainability, and restore coffee production in regions facing threats. 

The investment will cover various aspects such as coffee purchases, price premiums, technical assistance, and community projects, with the goal of empowering coffee-growing communities and facilitating access to global markets. 

 

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