Barry Callebaut Group has announced the official launch of FFI, the Future Farming Initiative, with the ambition to create a fully scalable, high-tech and sustainable cocoa farming business. Steven Retzlaff, currently president of Global Cocoa, will assume effective immediately the newly created role of executive chairman of FFI, reporting to Peter Feld, chief executive officer of Barry Callebaut.

The Group will not only establish the investment company FFI, which will initially be wholly owned by Barry Callebaut but also develop technology and R&D capabilities to be scaled. Barry Callebaut intends for FFI to be a catalyst for others to invest in farming and create partnerships with farmers to modernize sustainable cocoa farming at scale.

“At Barry Callebaut, we take our responsibility for all stakeholders very seriously. Over more than ten years, the company has made many positive steps on its sustainability journey as manifested last year in our renewed Forever Chocolate program that will continue to support the development of sustainable cocoa production in our origin sourcing countries,” says Peter Feld.

Under Steven Retzlaff’s lead, Barry Callebaut has signed the first of what will become a series of agreements with a highly respected high-tech farming business in Bahia, Brazil, for the initial development of 5,000 hectares of land. The joint ambition is to pilot and develop best practices in order to create a scalable and profitable high-tech model for sustainable cocoa farming. Barry Callebaut’s original 640-hectare Farm of the Future property, located in the Cerecitas Valley, Ecuador, will also be part of the FFI. At the same time, the Group continues with its efforts to help reforming the current cocoa farming model in all its origin sourcing countries whilst integrating learnings from FFI into its transformative approach.

“I am very excited about taking on this new challenge. I am convinced that with FFI, we will not only bring cocoa farming to industrial levels, but we will also help make sustainable cocoa the norm,” says Steven Retzlaff. “We will be able to transfer our learnings and expertise from FFI to our partners in all our origin sourcing countries to continue to help them on their journey to more productive and sustainable cocoa farming. Something, which has been very close to my heart for the past decades and will remain so in the future.”

Alain Freymond will succeed Steven Retzlaff effective immediately as president of Global Cocoa, reporting to Peter Feld. Freymond, a Swiss citizen, has been with Barry Callebaut for 20 years. During this time, he has held critical executive functions in global cocoa, including sourcing, risk management, sales and operations in Switzerland and North America.