Agribusiness is technology

Virtual seminar presents potentialities of the Brazilian agricultural sector for companies that develop innovative technological solutions

By Sérgio Siscaro

The increasing importance of agribusiness in the Brazilian economy, and the need for the sector to increase its competitiveness abroad, make it essential to incorporate technological solutions that raise the level of productivity in the field. It is no wonder that the segment of startups dedicated to developing solutions for agribusiness, the so-called agtechs, has been growing in recent years. Data from Associação Brasileira de Startups (ABStartups) (Brazilian Association of Startups) showed that, out of a total universe of 13.5 thousand startups active in the country, at the beginning of April 2021, around 3.56% operate in the agricultural sector.

Aware of the importance of the segment, Câmara de Comércio Brasil-Canadá (CCBC) (Chamber of Commerce Brazil-Canada) promoted last November the virtual seminar Challenges and opportunities of the Brazilian agribusiness, dedicated to presenting a panoramic view of the recent development of Brazilian agribusiness and the opportunities open to innovative startups. The event was part of the Fusion AgTech Challenge initiative, an online learning program carried out in conjunction with the startup accelerator Fabrique A, from Montreal, and is part of a regular program, which in October last year already enabled Brazilian startups to participate in the Design Sprint stage, when their solutions and pitches were tested and validated by experts in the field.

The webinar was presented by CCBC’s director of institutional relations, Paulo de Castro Reis, who pointed out that Brazilian agribusiness is the sector of the economy that has recorded the fastest growth, as a result of constant investments in technology, which are visible from the development of seeds to the introduction of modern machinery and new production, and distribution processes.

In the following, the partner-leader for the agribusiness segment at KPMG, Giovana Araújo, shared an overview of the current state of Brazilian agribusiness. “Last year, the sector reached sales of R$1.6 trillion, which corresponds to 21% of Brazil’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We believe that there are opportunities for this percentage to reach 24% by 2021”, she stated.

Sustainability & Technology

She believes that the industry’s main challenge is to continue to be profitable in a sustainable way, and technology is the key to achieving this. “The focal issue is to increase productivity, with the aim of maximizing the value of the assets already available. There are now more investments in digitalization processes and increased rural connectivity, for example, which increase the gains of Brazilian agribusiness”, she said, highlighting the role of improved processes in raising the degree of consumer confidence in the products from the agriculture area.

After that, the general coordinator of mechanization, new technologies, and genetic resources of Ministério da Agricultura e Pecuária (Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock), Sibele de Andrade Silva, explained the Brazilian government’s strategic vision for innovation in agriculture. She emphasized the importance of the agricultural sector providing food to an increasingly populated world, particularly in the context of climate change and its negative effects on productivity in the field and pointed out that the Ministry of Agriculture works with four main lines of action: sustainability, food security, safe food, and society. “There are also strategic areas, such as sustainability, bioeconomy, digital technologies, innovation, and technologies, linked to food production”, she added.

Incentive for innovation

Next, two initiatives joining technology and agribusiness gained space in the webinar. The executive director and CEO of AgriHub, Otávio Celidonio, presented the initiative, which is an innovation network in agriculture, based in Mato Grosso, that identifies the needs of rural producers and connects them with startups, mentors, technology companies, researchers, and investors. The concept is to promote the best use of technological solutions in the field. In this way, AgriHub hopes to contribute to raising the income of rural producers, encourage sustainable development through technology, and enable an increase in agricultural productivity.

The other initiative was presented by Professor José Belasque Júnior, from Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz (Esalq) (Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture) of the University of São Paulo (USP). He addressed an Esalq program that aims to foster innovation in the field. “The initiative is open to anyone who has an innovative idea related to agribusiness. In this process, as an example, we try to help the project, identify possible partners, and analyze the business plan. If the concept has potential, the startup can operate in the university’s facilities”, he stated.

The founder of Bioenergy Consulting, Agri-REX, and the program “O Agro Não Para (Agribusiness Does not Stop)“, Marco Ripoli, addressed the opportunities that Brazil offers in terms of innovative solutions in the field, such as, for example, in the machinery sector. “Brazil today has approximately 680,000 tractors in operation, and 170,000 combine harvesters. The connectivity of this equipment to the farm’s headquarters, for example, is extremely important for the decision-making process and the reduction of losses”, he exemplified, highlighting that only with the increase in connectivity will it be possible to obtain the totality of the results made possible by modern technologies.

Those interested in attending Challenges and opportunities of the Brazilian agribusiness can access the video of the event on Fabrique A’s channel of CCBC, in YouTube.