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Published on Jun 24, 2008
Chocolate...the mere mention of the word brings a smile to your face.
More than 6.5 million small family farmers across the globe depend on farming cocoa for their livelihood - particularly in places like Africa, South America, and Vietnam.
In fact, over the past 15 years, the global cocoa industry has had to deal with a trio of devastating fungal diseases, which cost cocoa growers an estimated $700 million in losses annually. And more than two million people globally have been adversely affected in ancillary, cocoa-related industries.
IBM Research - the world's largest commercial lab, in collaboration with Mars - the world's largest chocolate company, and the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, are teaming up to safeguard the world's chocolate supply and help the agricultural community worldwide. By combining their scientific resources to sequence and analyze the entire cocoa genome, the groups are aiming to create healthier, stronger cocoa crops with higher yields that can fend off disease and drought and enable farmers to plant better quality cocoa.
This work could have vast implications for making crops more resilient, combating food shortages through science and eliminating disease outbreaks like what we've witnessed in the US recently with tomatoes and spinach. And through this work perhaps chocolate will taste even better.
The collaboration will leverage more than a decade of IBM Research's experience in computational biology as well as the computing power of the Blue Gene supercomputer to ultimately protect an important social, economic and environmental driver in places such as Africa, where 70 percent of the world's cocoa is produced.