Smart farmers

Background

Piracicaba’s Ag Tech Valley is innovation factory

When universities, private initiatives and public power gather efforts, ideas become concrete solutions. This is exactly what is happening in Piracicaba´s Ag Tech Valley, in São Paulo state, the large Brazilian hub for agricultural innovation.

The Ag Tech Valley could be called an ‘Innovation Factory’ because it is the birthplace of about 20% of the total of ag start-ups in Brazil, which have 200 initiatives already supporting producers inside farms. Until 2016, it was no more than 76.

Including the agribusiness value chain (before, inside and after farms), the number grows to 400 initiatives. Ag Tech Valley nowadays is the most proliferous Brazilian agri-hub and has launched more than 40 start-ups for digital solutions on agriculture and livestock.

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Headquartered in EsalqTec farm, Smart Agri offers concepts and solutions for precision agriculture. Their first step was consultancy and, since 2018, they represent the Dutch WeedIt system in Brazil. - Photo: Marcos Nascimbem
Headquartered in EsalqTec farm, Smart Agri offers concepts and solutions for precision agriculture. Their first step was consultancy and, since 2018, they represent the Dutch WeedIt system in Brazil. - Photo: Marcos Nascimbem

EsalqTec

“We are growing very fast. I am certain we will overtake the United States when it comes to the total number of ag start-ups, but we‘re not aiming for quantity, we prioritise on intelligence”, says Sergio Barbosa, manager of EsalqTec, which initiated the Ag Tech Valley and is the ‘innovation division’ within Esalq University.

Top 5 agricultural sciences universities

Esalq (Escola Superior Luiz de Queiroz – USP) is one of Top 5 agricultural sciences universities in the world (4th NTU 2018 Ranking) and has provided support for digital innovative researches since 2005, culminating in a long-standing tradition among Piracicaba, agriculture and technology.

“We want to create the agribusiness future on the foundation of a robust ecosystem, with the help of multiple generations of knowledge within the university, enterprising students, researchers and big companies supporting that. Here, we have farmers who are developing their own ag start-ups, as well”, says Barbosa.

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Sergio Barbosa, manager of EsalqTec: “We are growing very fast. I am certain we will overtake the United States when it comes to the total number of ag start-ups." - Photo: Daniel Azevedo
Sergio Barbosa, manager of EsalqTec: “We are growing very fast. I am certain we will overtake the United States when it comes to the total number of ag start-ups." - Photo: Daniel Azevedo

Initiatives within Piracicaba Ag Tech Valley start with hundreds of students inside the classes, continuing to the EsalqTec incubator farm and eventually growing into companies in the Technological Park or in Pulse.

They already have amazing and scalable solutions for different cultures, like sugarcane, livestock, eucalyptus trees and grains. Using digital technology, AI (Artificial Intelligence), sensors, block chain, Big Data, 3D printers and all sorts of 4.0 Agriculture techniques.

Smart Agri: High precision

Headquartered in EsalqTec farm, Smart Agri offers concepts and solutions for precision agriculture. Their first step was consultancy and, since 2018, they represent the Dutch WeedIt system in Brazil. WeedIt comprises of sensors on sprayers and achieves up to 92% reduction of herbicides.

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Furthermore, Smart Agri develops other solutions including an automatic selector of eucalyptus trees, a system that counts soy lost grains after harvesters and an application for high precision pesticides utilisation through satellites. “These solutions already have testing prototypes and we intend to bring them on to the market this year. Here at Ag Tech Valley, we have the support to transform ideas into real solutions”, says Marcos Nascimbem Ferraz from Smart Agri.

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Marcos Nascimbem (left) and his team. - Photo: Daniel Azevedo
Marcos Nascimbem (left) and his team. - Photo: Daniel Azevedo

Inforow: Building perfect lines

How do you know if sugar cane paths are entirely filled? Mark Spekken, CEO from Somo, developed the software called Inforow that captures images by drones and indicates where the gaps are in the crops, since 3% to 30% of every cane field has no plants. Sugar cane has a 5 years cycle that costs around US$ 300 each year per hectare. Due to this, improving its coverage is pivotal. Furthermore, Inforow is still discovering utilities and, certainly, its solutions are applicable to other cultures like soy, coffee or corn.

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Mark Spekken, CEO from Somo, developed the software called Inforow that captures images by drones and indicates where the gaps are in the crops, since 3% to 30% of every cane field has no plants. - Photo: Daniel Azevedo
Mark Spekken, CEO from Somo, developed the software called Inforow that captures images by drones and indicates where the gaps are in the crops, since 3% to 30% of every cane field has no plants. - Photo: Daniel Azevedo

“Photometry identifies faults in cane rows over 50 cm and Inforow builds structured data. Since September 2017, we work with 32 clients who cover 500,000 hectares. Mapping by drones using structured data is an exciting innovation for agriculture because failures in crop lines are erratic and relevant”, explains Spekken.

Smart Breeder – 2 million hectares

Smart Breeder was created for automatically answering 3 fundamental questions: when, where and how to apply agricultural inputs? “I am positive that Smart Breeder is the first company to foresee where plagues and pests will appear. It is a forecasting automation. So, the management becomes much better on the grounds of a multidisciplinary approach for smarter decisions”, explains Éder Gigliotti, president of Smart Breeder.

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Éder Gigliotti, president of Smart Breeder: “I am positive that Smart Breeder is the first company to foresee where plagues and pests will appear."- Photo: Daniel Azevedo
Éder Gigliotti, president of Smart Breeder: “I am positive that Smart Breeder is the first company to foresee where plagues and pests will appear."- Photo: Daniel Azevedo

The solution already covers 3 million hectares and has 500 million well-structured data files regarding farms in São Paulo, Paraná and Mato Grosso. Regarding sugar cane culture for example, their results cut 75% on costs on crop monitoring and increase production by 15%.

The goal is to gain 2 million hectares among other crops as soy, corn and cotton in 2019 with a promise of 10 to 20 times return of investment. “We have a well-structured team with over 70 employees with multidisciplinary profiles for that. When farmers have more time, they can undertake new projects”, Gigliotti concludes.

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