Big data makes a big difference for Brazilian farmers

04 May 2021

Big data makes a big difference for Brazilian farmers

Healthier crops. Better resistance to climate change. Maximum yield. OCP’s new partner Data Farm is helping farmers use the power of big data to make informed decisions.

 

Across the OCP Group, innovation is championed. From ways of working to new products to teaming up with entrepreneurs to change the future.

The partnership with Brazilian start-up Data Farm is a great example of this appetite for transformation, as it allows OCP to bring together the latest tech innovation with the priorities of the farmer. It’s also revolutionizing the industry.

“We want to help farmers achieve maximum crop yield,” says Data Farm’s co-founder Thiago Camargo (pictured).

Big data makes a big difference for Brazilian farmers

“And we’re using our expertise in soil science and the power of data analysis to do this every day.”

The Data Farm platform combines 16 million hectares of soil analysis with 30 years of climate data and with satellite imagery to create simulations that give farmers tailored recommendations.

“We’re really confident about this approach because we’ve been seeing consistent results since 2015,” he says.

Data Farm is part of Brazil’s booming start-up industry. At last count, the country boasted over 12,000 start-ups, with well over 1,000 of them focusing on agritech.

The demand for agribusiness innovation in Brazil is growing. The country has always been a major food producer – it’s the top coffee, sugar and orange juice exporter in the world – with diverse crops, ranging from grains to fruit, soybean to coffee. As the world looks to scale up food production to ensure food security – and OCP is focused on soil health to achieve this – Brazil is one of the major areas of focus.

 

The origins of Data Farm

 

Soil science is a family business. For generations, Thiago’s family has run IBRA, the largest soil analysis laboratory in Latin America, which processes 500,000 soil samples per year.

In 2018, he saw the opportunity to take this further. Using technology, they could bring their expertise – and the expertise of their partners – to more farmers. And Data Farm was born.

Thiago gives us three of the ways that Data Farm is helping farmers in Brazil:

   1. Using data simulations to identify the farmer’s exact needs

“Our algorithm provides simulations that will give the farmer the personalized information they need about the productivity of soil on their farm, the local weather and the crops they want to grow. We can even give the exact window for sowing or planting. This is important because if you miss the window, you’ll have less access to water and sunshine. It allows for a far more accurate prediction of crop yield.

“We also work with our farmers to monitor the crop development and at the end of the season to confirm the productivity of the crop. By doing this we can work out exactly where the farmer might face a challenge. And once we identify that – from water density to soil fertility – we can advise on the best approach to remedy this.”

   2. Demonstrating a clear return on investment

“We want to be able to give farmers a clear idea of their return on investment, so we’ve worked with some clients to set up a ‘test’ farm on part of their land. We use our state-of-the-art tech, we follow our own advice – from planting time to water usage, equipment use to soil nutrition – and we demonstrate exactly what the farmer can expect from following our methods.

“The results have been incredibly rewarding. We’ve shown a 61% increase in yield in soybean crops, which is much higher than the 10% increase that is the national average.”

  3. Working to reverse climate change

“Healthy soil is incredibly important in combating climate change. Today, intensive farming has caused loss of soil fertility, desertification, increased greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonization. We’re working to address this in several ways.

“We want to help more farmers practise carbon neutral agriculture – this means focusing on soil fertility through biodiversity and crop rotation and using only the soil nutrition that is needed.

“We also want to show farmers how they can be paid for supporting healthy soil that captures C02 from the atmosphere, so we’re introducing them to the carbon credit market.

“And we’re also showing them how they can grow crops that are more resilient to the impacts of climate change – for example, a deeper root makes the plant less vulnerable to water scarcity.

We really believe that by setting this example, we can encourage more farmers to see the benefits of regenerative practises.

A global partnership

The opportunity to innovate within this sector – with companies like Data Farm – has several major benefits for OCP: it will increase farmers’ yields and it modernizes the sector, making it more appealing to entrepreneurs and young people.

The Data Farm partnership was due to OCP’s support of AgTech Garage, the largest agribusiness innovation hub in Brazil.

Amine Nassaf, who heads up OCP’s corporate and strategy development in the Latam region, believes start-up partnerships are essential for solving industry issues. “New ideas, new technology … that’s what AgTech Garage, and its Intensive Connection Program, offers companies like OCP,” he says. “We can meet the entrepreneurs who will helps find better, faster, more data-led ways to tackle issues like soil health and plant nutrition.”

This innovation is essential not only for Brazil’s agribusiness, but for the world too.

“We’re already planning the pilot schemes in several African countries,” says Thiago. “The learnings we have from Brazil are relevant around the globe.

“Our success is because our platform was built by agronomists, people who not only understand the soil, but who understand the pain and challenges that farmers face. With Data Farm we’re able to help more people get better access to the data and the expertise from our partners.

It’s improving the farmers’ livelihoods and it’s helping the world.

Data Farm is just one of the start-ups that OCP has partnered with in Brazil via AgTech Garage. Five more start-ups that have accelerated with OCP include Agrorobotica, Agripad ,Inceres,Sensix and Krilltech. All of these partnerships support the farmer in bettering their business.

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At AgTech Garage, Thiago Camargo explains how Data Farm is helping farmers in Brazil

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