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Symrise Takes a Deep Dive into Malagasy Vanilla Cultivation Methods

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Symrise is working with vanilla farmers in northeastern Madagascar to research optimal vanilla cultivation methods.

The project aims to ensure higher yields and the best possible quality, and increase the income and improve the living conditions of farmers. Currently, the company works with around 7,000 smallholder farmers in 90 villages.

The results of the project will help the company understand how the yield and quality of vanilla can be further improved and how farmers can efficiently apply this knowledge to their vanilla cultivation.

Related: Symrise, Unilever Look to Shape the Future of Vanilla

“Thanks to our close cooperation with farmers and our permanent presence, we understand the working and living conditions of local farmers in detail,” said Alain Bourdon, country director, Symrise Madagascar. “We want to sustainably improve their living conditions and consider this an integral part of our approach to supporting farmers and their families.”

He continued: “We want them to become more resilient and have already achieved encouraging results with the work we have been doing in the field. Now we have started another chapter, which aims to better understand the vanilla plants our partner farmers work with and the conditions under which the precious plant grows best.”

What Vanilla Needs

When it launched in 2018, the project first focused on the conditions that allow vanilla seedlings to grow healthily. The employees then looked for the best possible conditions in the soil structure with regard to nutrients, permeability and ventilation.

At the end of that year, the plants completed their first stage of growth, allowing Symrise to begin their phenotyping—quantitative analysis and measurement of the appearance of the plants—after which they reported the ideal conditions for the growth of the flowers. This includes amount of water applied, temperature regulation and the trimming of plants to stimulate their flowering. A team of permanent experts supervised the entire process.

Sharing the findings will help small-scale farmers increase the yield of vanilla and sustain their livelihood.  “Our vanilla activities there are the best proof that commercial success and sustainability go hand in hand,” said Heinrich Schaper, president, flavor division at Symrise.