Development of novel value chain from cocoa pod husks in Indonesia: Technological, environmental and socio-economic challenges of a value chain

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Food and Nutritional Sciences

Abstract

Indonesia is the world's 3rd largest cocoa producer, producing around 400,000 tonnes pa of cocoa, primarily in small family farms, and this industry contributes ~14% to GDP. Cocoa farming is the main source of income for more than one million smallholder farmers and their families, therefore the economic and environmental sustainability of cocoa production is key for the long-term social and economic stability of farming communities. The sector though is facing significant technical and business challenges which lead to low farming productivities and consequently to low profitability for farmers. Despite a number of public-private initiatives over the last 8 years, significant changes are still needed to improve the sustainability of cocoa production and have an impact on farmers' welfare and economic stability. These include implementing best-known farming practices (e.g. efficient use of fertilisers and pesticides), developing approaches for the exploitation of by-products, improving post-harvesting techniques for cocoa beans, improving infrastructure and transportation, developing education and training programmes for farmers and promoting the development of farmers' co-operatives.

The commercial exploitation of cocoa pod husks through their conversion to added-value products, such as biomaterials for food and non-food uses, is a promising strategy and a timely opportunity to address effectively and efficiently some of the sustainability issues of cocoa production. This is high up on the R&D agenda of our industrial partner (Mars Chocolate Ltd) and Indonesian government agencies. Currently, most farmers, after extracting the beans, leave the pod husks on cocoa plantations. This can return some nutrients to the soil (in the absence of any other fertiliser being used), but untreated pod husks can lead to increased pest and disease pressure from cocoa pod borer moth and black pod disease, thus decreasing the productivity of the farms. The aim of the project is to develop a novel value chain for cocoa pod husks which upon implementation will have an impact on the economic stability and welfare of cocoa farmers. The specific objectives are to: (i) elicit the willingness of farmers in Indonesia to adopt the proposed practice changes and assess how these might be aligned with farmers' preferences; (ii) develop scalable process designs for the efficient fractionation of cocoa pod husks into non-soluble fibre, soluble fibre and lignin fractions; (iii) identify and evaluate value-adding applications for such fractions with market potential within the food and non-food sectors; (iv) understand the potential impacts on soil properties and soil nutrient cycling of off-farm removal of husks; and (v) propose a supply chain based on scale and mode of operations (e.g. centralised or decentralised) and evaluate the economic viability from a farmer's and private sector perspective.

Developing a new value chain based on the use of cocoa pod husks husks will minimise potentially negative environmental effects associated with their disposal and diversify the activities of farmers through the collection, primary processing and transportation of the husks. All these changes will considerably improve the sustainability of cocoa production. This can potentially have significant impact on the farmers' economic stability and welfare through increased household income, incorporation of modern and sustainable farming practices, public-private investments in infrastructure, manufacturing operations and transportation, introduction to new technologies, development of new skill sets, creation of jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. The project's outcomes will make a strong case for use of the novel value chain and identify the socio-economic and technological challenges (e.g. adoption of new farming practices by farmers, process efficiency and scalability) and opportunities as well as the risks for its successful implementation.

Technical Summary

The project will take an integrative approach to identify and address holistically the technological, environmental, economic and societal challenges of developing a novel value chain for cocoa pod husks. This is important as it will ensure that the strategies in this value chain are viable for use in Indonesia and have a positive impact on the welfare and economic stability of the farmers, as well as the environment.

The project will explore three alternative protocols, organosolv processing, alkaline extraction and steam explosion, to identify an efficient and scalable process for the fractionation of cocoa pod husks into soluble fibre, insoluble fibre and lignin. The fibre-rich husk fractions will be added into different food systems (bakery, dairy, chocolate-based confectionary products) to reduce their sugar and fat content and increase their fibre content, and will also be investigated as a filler to improve the physicochemical properties of biodegradable foam packaging materials. The willingness of Indonesian farmers to adopt the proposed practice changes (e.g., additional labour for the collection, storage and transport of husks, changes in farming practices associated with the new mode of husk utilisation) will be assessed by a preliminary survey, and subsequently by a choice experiment to evaluate how these changes might be aligned with farmers' preferences. Studies will also be conducted to understand the potential impacts of the off-farm removal of husks on soil properties and soil nutrient cycling. The outputs from the individual work packages will be integrated to develop alternative flow designs for a novel value chain based on different scenarios (e.g. location and scale of operations, changes in farming practices, infrastructure needs). The economic viability of the whole value chain will be assessed from a farmers' perspective and from the perspective of a commercial operation using cost-benefit analysis techniques.

Planned Impact

The implementation of a novel value chain for cocoa pod husks will have considerable social, economic and environmental impact which will benefit a number of stakeholders, including the Indonesian cocoa farmers and the cocoa sector as a whole, the Indonesian food and packaging industry and the general public.

The new value chain will have significant impact on the farmers' economic stability and welfare through increased household income (as a result of the collection, storage and transport of the husks to the manufacturing facility), introduction to new technologies, development of new skill sets, promotion of farmers' cooperatives, creation of jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. Moreover, it will provide an understanding of the environmental impact that the current uses (non-standardised application of non-composted husks to soil) and proposed uses (collection of husks) have on soil quality and nutrient cycling, and propose suitable alternative strategies (e.g. through addition of inorganic fertilisers, composted materials or re-introduction of husk-derived fractions to soil). These will be used to design a viable novel value chain for cocoa pod husks that is based on good farming practices and has minimum impact to the environment. The project outputs will form the basis for: (i) stimulating collaborative activities between stakeholders involved in the project (Indonesian farmers, Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development of the Ministry of Agriculture, Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute, Mars Chocolate Ltd) and beyond (e.g. Indonesian food and packaging SMEs, the public-private Cocoa Sustainability Partnership forum), (ii) designing viable commercialisation plans, and (iii) attracting public-industry investment for improvements in infrastructure and for new manufacturing facilities. These impacts will considerably improve the economic and environmental sustainability of cocoa production, which is key for the long-term social and economic stability of the Indonesian farming communities.

The Indonesian cocoa industry will benefit through the commercial exploitation of an underexplored natural resource (cocoa pod husks), which at the moment have low value. This will be driven by the extraction of added value components (e.g. dietary fibre, biomaterials, lignin) with considerable market opportunities within the food, packaging and chemical sectors. Besides the potential global impact, commercialisation of these husk derived products will particularly have an impact on the Indonesian food and packaging sectors which have been experiencing significant growth in the last few years. Within the Indonesian food sector, this will be materialised through the development of healthier food products (e.g. ice cream), containing fibre extracted from cocoa pod husks, that have a lower sugar/fat content and a higher fibre content. This is a global priority for food manufacturers and a significant growth area driven by the need to address concerns by health authorities and consumers, and potentially reduce the risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Within the Indonesian packaging sector, this will be materialised through the use of husk derived fibre components as biomaterials for the production of starch-based biodegradable foam packaging materials. These materials are used as alternatives to styrofoam packaging materials; the latter use harsh chemicals for their production, such as styrene and benzene. The above impacts will result in an improvement in the quality of life and the health of the general public through: (i) the development of functional ingredients that can be incorporated into food products, (ii) the reduction in our dependence on petrochemicals and (iii) the reduction in pollution from chemical synthesis of plastics.

Publications

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Lu F (2018) Valorisation strategies for cocoa pod husk and its fractions in Current Opinion in Green and Sustainable Chemistry

 
Description (i) Cocoa pod husks contain significant amounts (~60%) of soluble and insoluble fibre, consisting of cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin as well as considerable amounts of lignin.
(ii)The husks contain ~ 10% pectin which can be extracted by a water extraction method, and can be potentially as a thickener but more interestingly as a gelling agent, due to its promising characteristics.
(iii) The husks can be further fractionated and separated into its remaining key macromolecular components (cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin) using a variety of potential scalable processes including steam explosion, alkali extraction and organosolv, providing streams of different compositions and purities.
(iv) The steam explosion method produces a hydrolysate which can be used for ethanol production although the yields are not very high thus far - further optimisation work is needed and is on-going
(v) The orgnanosolv method produces a relatively crude mixture of lignin which needs substantial separation in order to be usablefor chemical applications
(vi) The alakli extraction method produces a fraction of hemicellulose and a fraction of cellulose with good yields and purities.
(vii) The hemicellulose and cellulose fractions have good physicochemical and functional properties and have be usedto produce new formulations of muffins with low fat and sugar content demonstrating the potential of cocoa pod husks as sources of functional ingredients.
(viii) Interestingly the cocoa pod husks, without any treatment, demonstrated potential to be used as a fnctional crude ingredient for bakaery products.
(ix) The majority of Indonesian farmers don't collect ths husks and leave them on the field.
(x) The farmers are willing to collect the husks and process them (cutting, drying), although their willingness to do so depends on financial incentives as there are many limitations (e.g.transportation, equipment costs etc).
(xi) The husks have a role on soil quality and nutrient cycling although their contribution does not seem to be that important
(xii) Developing a valorisation process from cocoa pod husks in Indonesia seemsa viable option, and technoeconomic modelling is necessary to support this development
Exploitation Route (i) Potentially by Mars Indonesia, which is a project partner but also by other chocolate manufacturers all of which have strong presence in Indonesia (ii) By the farming industry in Indonesia which might change practices in Indonesia as a result of the findings of the project, (iii) policy makers and Indonesia Government, which might strengthen their support for the valorisation cocoa farming by-products as one of the measures to improve cocoa sustainability.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description The project has been running for about 18 months and has been progressing very well in terms of the research conducted as well as stakeholder engagement in Indonesia. The part of the work focusing on modelling the nutrient cycling of Indonesian soil and the influence of cocoa pod husks on this, has a generated a considerable amount of data and very interesting conclusions. These have been discussed thoroughly with our partner Mars Indonesia, and have been used to inform their R&D strategy and in the near future influence the advice that they give to farmers. The part of the work focusing on conducting farmers' survey in Java and Sulawesi have generated very interesting and important data, which have been exchanged with our partners ICCRI and Mars, and have been fed into the final work package, which aims to provide a holistic approach to the valorisation of cocoa pod husks, targeting the development of a novel supply chain.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description EIT Food KIC - Digital Marketplace for Side Streams
Amount £117,000 (GBP)
Organisation European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) 
Sector Public
Country Hungary
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2019
 
Description Transformation of food processing by-products into value-added products
Amount £21,000 (GBP)
Organisation Brunel University London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 03/2019
 
Title Data from two farmers' surveys in Indonesia 
Description Two farmers' survey have been conducted, the 1st with 50 farmers in Sulawesi, and the 2nd with 150 farmers in Sulawesi and Java. A significant amount of data have been collected including demographic data as well preference data, and results from a choice experiment (2nd survey). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact These data are extremely important to design a viable value chain in Indonesia using cocoa pod husks asraw materials. The primary data ave been conducted and analysed and are currenlty fed into a technoeconomic model in order to further optimise the overall process. 
 
Description Collaboration with Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute (ICCRI) 
Organisation Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute
PI Contribution Involvement of partners in the project
Collaborator Contribution ICCRI will perform two farmers' surveys in Indonesia to evaluate the potential adoption by farmers of the new approaches developed in the project.
Impact No outcomes yet, pending surveys
Start Year 2017
 
Description 1st farmers' survey in Indonesia (Sulawesi, 50 farmers) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The first farming survey (50 farmers) was conduced at the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, with the aim to test the questionnaires and produce the baseline in preparation of the 2nd, larger survey. Enumerators provided by the Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute conducted the interviews and supported the PDRA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description 2nd farmers' survey in Indonesia (Sulawesi and Java) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The second farming survey (150 farmers) was conducted in Sulawesi and Java in Indonesia, with the aim to evaluate the willingness of farmers to collect cocoa pod husks, process them (e.g. cutting, drying) and transfer them to a secondary processing facility, and what would be the required financial incentives. Enumerators provided by the Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute conducted the interviews and supported the PDRA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Talk at a GCRF relevant event organised the University of Surrey, Royal Holloway and University of Reading, in collaboration with the UKRI GCRF 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This workshop was held to inform a diverse range of researchers and stakeholders on the GCRF programme, how to build relationships with interested stakeholders, application process, etc. My talk was a case study on GCRF research with food systems. The talk was very well received by the audience and led to a high level of interaction and discussion afterwards, which continued after the event as well.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Visit to MARS Indonesia (Tarengee Research Station) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A research visit was conducted to the Tarangee Research Station in Mars Indonesia in order to design the soil experiments and establish the sampling protocols the soil nutrient intake study. Besides the discussions with the R&D staff at Tarangee, three farms were also visited to discuss faring practices; one of these farms was decided to be included in the experimental design.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018