AgTech in Brazil is at an early stage

Brazil’s challenge is the fact that they already have many types of devices, but they are not connected.

Although several of AgTech technologies are beginning to be adopted in Brazil, the country is still at an early stage in the use of IoT, according to the head of the agricultural informatics unit of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), Silvia Massruhá.

The head of Embrapa considers that Brazil’s challenge is the fact that they already have many types of devices. “But they are not connected because there is no connectivity in the field, or because the data is heterogeneous, or because there is no way to integrate into the application,” she explains. According to the IIC 2018 household survey conducted by the Internet Steering Committee, while the percentage of Brazilians connected in urban centers reaches 80%, in rural areas it is 59%.

Embrapa has started pilot projects for Brazil. One of them focuses on the monitoring of pests and diseases. By monitoring and forecasting the weather with the use of weather stations, the objective is to prevent the incidence of Asian rust in soybeans. “The system will be given the correct date to apply the pesticide depending on the weather, in an intersection with the disease data. We will measure whether this helped reduce costs and increase productivity,” explains Silvia Massruhá.

Another project, also coordinated by this public company, involves the optimization of known ways in the “crop, livestock and forest integration” sector. This methodology would allow a soybean producer, for example, to find other uses for the soil, such as planting pastures for cattle during the time the land remains dormant.

The IoT systems in the pilot project will measure various aspects of this integration. The oxen will have implanted chips and, through this equipment and others (such as scales), the data will be crossed with other aspects, such as food, to identify their development and the best moment of sacrifice. The test will be carried out with producers in five states: Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goias, Sao Paulo, and Piaui.

In Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais, a third pilot project seeks to optimize milk production, with procedures such as livestock feed monitoring and milking automation. In the end, milk will be compared with others without the adoption of these technologies to assess whether these solutions have improved the quantity and quality of the product.

The CPQD technology development center carries out a project with an agricultural company that installs sensors on tractors and other equipment to monitor machine performance. The system will track the distance traveled, fuel consumption and any problems to identify maintenance demands.

“Imagine if you are in the middle of the field and the machine breaks down. The producer has to stop the harvest, remove the machine, and send another. If it is possible to take all their data and predict that they have a very high possibility of rupture, the person can request maintenance before something happens,” explains CPQD innovation director Paulo Curado.

Challenges in public policies in Brazil

Researchers, people in business, and authorities point out that agriculture is one of the sectors where IoT technologies are experiencing a faster evolution. “There is a lot of potential in Brazil for agriculture. It is one of the priority areas and is strengthening in the coming years,” says the president of the Brazilian Association of Internet of Things (Abinc), Flávio Maeda.

The area was chosen as a priority in the National Internet of Things Plan, launched in June. The document describes generic guidelines, without going into details about what measures state agencies will take to stimulate these technologies in the field.

The proposals and projects will be prepared by a group created for this purpose, called Câmara Agro 4.0. Directed by the Ministries of Agriculture (MAPA) and Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications (MCTIC), it will also have the participation of other agencies, researchers and industry associations and companies in the country.

According to the secretary of innovation, rural development and irrigation of MAPA, Fernando Camargo, the members will evaluate actions on several fronts. The most important thing will be the expansion of connectivity in rural areas, given the territorial extension and the contingent of people still outside the Internet in these places. According to the ICT Households 2017 survey conducted by the Internet Steering Committee, while the rate of households with access to the web is 65% in urban regions, in rural areas it drops to 34%.

The Chamber should also focus on programs to encourage the acquisition and dissemination of innovative technologies. One of them is to stimulate the creation and growth of technological startups. The objective with the dissemination of these technical solutions is to increase productivity in the field. Currently, there are 338 AgTech startups in Brazil.

“We need to encourage startups to increase the production chain within the area of agribusiness.” 

Marcos Pontes, head of MCTIC.