Mars needs chocolate. Lots of it. It just inked a big data deal to improve the cacao tree.

McLean-based Mars Inc. has struck a partnership with a St. Louis company to sustain its bread and butter: the cacao tree.

Mars and Benson Hill Biosystems will work together to “improve the productivity and climate resilience of the cacao tree, essential to chocolate production,” the pair said in a release. Benson Hill promises a “revolutionary crop design platform” that combines machine learning and big data with genome editing and plant biology to “drastically accelerate and simplify the product development process.”

“We want to enable farmers to produce more cocoa from less land,” Dr. Howard Shapiro, Mars’ chief agricultural officer, said in the release. “Benson Hill has built an impressive data and machine learning platform designed to provide insights that can improve crops faster. By tapping into the natural genetic diversity of cacao, we can speed up the evolutionary process necessary for improved productivity, disease resistance and resiliency to climate change.”


Read the full story from the Washington Business Journal.