Aidan Connolly, President, AgriTech Capital, is a food/feed/farm futurologist.

Climate change and labor shortages worldwide threaten crop yields and food security, and ESG expectations add an extra layer of complexity for food producers—even in countries with abundant natural resources. Brazil offers a valuable example of this. Its land and climate, combined with some determined long-term vision and ambition, have made it a world leader in a host of food and agricultural commodities.

However, even with all its natural advantages, Brazil is facing serious challenges. Along with climate change and labor shortages, it’s also encountering environmental pressures, changing consumer demands and demand volatility. A particular challenge for Brazil is the deforestation of the Amazon, which attracts negative global attention. Together, these factors pose a threat to Brazil’s sustained growth.

The Agri-Technologies Of Brazil

Eager to continue their market expansion yet facing the same ESG and environmental challenges as other markets, Brazilian agribusinesses increasingly are turning to digital and genomic innovations to tackle these crucial challenges while heeding national and international calls to improve the sustainability of their operations. Brazil now boasts more than 1,700 agtech startups that are developing innovative blockchain, artificial intelligence and drone technology looking for ways to improve competitiveness. The big difference is that whereas in the past, the goal was simply to enhance productivity, the current generation of innovators offers ESG and sustainability features to the mix. Here are examples of some of the technologies these innovators are using to get there.

Blockchain

Blockchain startups can improve traceability, efficiency and sustainability in the food supply chain. They also provide the information customers, regulatory authorities and other actors in the food chain need to increase the transparency of ESG initiatives in Brazil’s food and agriculture supply chains.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is being applied to enhance Brazilian pest and disease control. AI is also being combined with computer vision, allowing for better decision-making on the farm amid the climate and labor challenges. This technology is helping Brazil advance sustainability practices in agriculture by optimizing water, fertilizer and crop protection, reducing waste and minimizing environmental impacts. Even in a country that traditionally has benefited from cheap labor, recent worker shortages in the food chain increase the value of AI automation on farms and in food factories.

Drones

Drones are increasingly common on Brazilian farms. The ability of drones in Brazil to collect information remotely is particularly critical in a country where the road infrastructure is challenging and where auditing sustainability metrics is increasingly crucial to the international customers of Brazil’s produce.

Lessons For Global Agtechs

Food producers and farmers of the world should take note. Home to some of the most productive land in the world, Brazil’s agricultural advancements aren’t just a boon for Brazil—they also contribute to global food security.

Traditionally, Brazil has focused almost exclusively on productivity for productivity’s sake, keeping the price down and the volume up. However, today’s global consumers (“prosumers”) are demanding more—they also want assurance that the food is safe and has been sustainably produced.

Ultimately, Brazil serves as a model for other countries—particularly in Latin America and Africa—in how to develop sustainable, efficient and technologically advanced agriculture. More importantly, it shows that agri-technology innovators worldwide can succeed by addressing more than productivity and performance: Developing tech that helps make the planet a better place to live can be a net positive, not just another challenge.


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