Digitalising the cocoa process

Supercharging GCB Cocoa's Sustainability in Cote d'Ivoire

With over 30 years of experience under its cocoa belt, GCB Cocoa is now the world’s fourth-largest cocoa processor. After becoming the top leader in the Asia market, the company has been expanding its operations in Europe as of late. On the heels of this growth, GCB Cocoa launched its sustainability strategy to address cocoa beans supply chain issues right from the source. To do so, they assessed the potential of several food supply chain digital solutions for cocoa and identified Farmforce food’s first mile traceability software as their sweet spot.

“The application at origin is really key in terms of maintaining a comprehensive supplier database, documenting programme activities, and tracking purchases and sales,” Elizabeth Levitz, Cocoa Sustainability Manager at GCB Cocoa, said.

More Than Cocoa Traceability

GCB Cocoa has already used our food tech in Cote d’Ivoire, where they directly implement sustainability programs. As it stands, GCB Cocoa deployed our sustainable food supply chain management Software as a Service (SaaS) across 11 cooperatives, covering nearly 6,000 smallholder farmers altogether.

Inspired by their customers’ eco-friendly sweet tooth, GCB Cocoa’s initial main goal was to prove that cocoa producers in their direct sourcing network were not linked to deforestation. This called for a cocoa production traceability booster at the farm level, which is where Farmforce’s field mapping came in handy. Yet, the Farmforce benefits reaped by GCB Cocoa went beyond tracing each bag of cocoa back to the farmer:

  • Accountability: Our software for farm management allows GCB Cocoa to gather invaluable data along cocoa’s first mile (e.g., farmer database management, field mapping to check for deforestation risk, and Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS) surveys). This enables them to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and work with customers to achieve sustainability targets.
  • Impact: GCB Cocoa is looking into using Farmforce as a monitoring tool for their program success. Using Farmforce, they can record activities carried out along with farmer and community participation, and measure Key Performance Indicators. With full visibility of project operations, they can be sure they deliver the intended results.
  • Industry Commitments: As a Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI) signatory and International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) Member, GCB Cocoa has committed to preventing and addressing deforestation and child labour within its supply chains. They have integrated surveys into our supply chain visibility software to monitor these efforts. In doing so, the company can report to CFI and ICI, who can, in turn, report on industry-wide achievements.

“This is so much more than just digital traceability. I think we forget about program effectiveness and impact. That’s another key added value of the system which we have yet to tap into that I’m really excited about,” Elizabeth said.

Farmforce: Boots on The Ground

While Farmforce implementation was generally smooth for GCB Cocoa, there was a minor hiccup to solve. Some of the information embedded into the cocoa bag’s barcodes were added in a different format or not included at all in our database. However, our on-the-ground team easily adapted our farm data software to fit the company inputs. Aside from sorting out technicalities, Farmforce’s seamless support was crucial to helping GCB Cocoa fulfill further needs. For instance, our on-site presence gave rise to joint training sessions and visits to coops. Furthermore, Farmforce’s operations team in Cote d’Ivoire enabled us to provide other customers in neighboring countries with a more localised response.

Making The Most Out of Farmforce

GCB Cocoa’s main purpose was to digitise farms to streamline their record tracking. As previously mentioned, GCB Cocoa went beyond farm-to-fork traceability when using Farmforce in Cote d’Ivoire. Digging into our AgTech solutions, they utilised many other functionalities:

  • Surveys: The GCB team utilised surveys by integrating their community-level programs within the survey module.
  • Certification & Quota Management: After estimating the maximum amount of cocoa beans each producer is allowed to sell (i.e., quota), GCB Cocoa stored these details in our database. As the first mile cocoa buying process is entirely managed within Farmforce, the company can immediately flag if farmers are delivering more cocoa beans than what was forecasted. Any significant surplus could foreshadow the non-traceable trade of cocoa beans. Thanks to this feature, GCB Cocoa can flag uncertified harvest in the first mile.
  • Training: Leveraging this module, GCB Cocoa can prove that its cocoa producers have been trained; putting them in good standing when applying for certifications.

Training: The First Step to Success

To begin with, GCB Cocoa had to invest a lot of time in training coops’ staff on Farmforce. And that’s because most of the users had no previous experience in handling any kind of digital tool. Also, supported by Farmforce on-the-ground staff, they’re now running regular training and refresher sessions for coops’ personnel. This joint effort is maximising engagement at the coop level. On top of that, the company set up a dedicated hotline to provide coops with constant and prompt assistance.

Fast Cocoa Growth

Although GCB Cocoa has already achieved significant progress since they deployed Farmforce, they are eager to walk the extra food’s first mile. Farmforce and GCB Cocoa are in regular discussions to further improve the running software and on-the-ground efforts to meet such needs.

GCB Cocoa remains eager to further the rapid expansion of its sustainability operations across the world. The company is forecasting nearly double the number of cocoa producers managed through Farmforce by 2023. They are also exploring direct sustainability programming in other origins, where Farmforce may play a key role as a sustainability enabler.

At Farmforce, food’s first mile is our passion. Our SaaS solutions provide organizations with the confidence to secure sustainable sourcing, improve farmers’ quality of life and protect the environment. We turn data into tools, which means more vetted acres, more measurable impact on communities, more financial opportunities for farmers, and more clarity for customers. We believe in building a better food supply where it starts. Farmforce customers span 28 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. With over nine years of experience now managing over 735,000+ farmers in 27 crop value chains in 15 languages on our platform. A continuous loop of innovation with our customers in the center of food’s first mile journey.

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