5 technologies capable of enhancing the productivity of the sugar-energy sector

Modernisation of operations is essential for the country to maintain its position at the top of the sugarcane market

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21 June 2022

The largest global producer of sugarcane historically, Brazil reached more than 654.5 million tons with the 2020/21 harvest, representing 23% of production and 49% of world exports, according to the Union of the Sugarcane Industry (Unica). As the planted area of this crop should not increase significantly, technology represents a fundamental pillar for the maintenance of this growth scenario in the coming years.
"It is through the modernisation of properties and equipment that the necessary efficiency is guaranteed to achieve good results," says Rafael Borelli, Commercial Solutions Manager at Hexagon's Agriculture division, which develops technological tools that integrate planning, cultivation, harvesting and transportation of raw materials. With operations in more than 36 countries, the company is currently involved in the processes of 46% of global sugarcane production. 
Thinking about the importance of this technological advance, Hexagon's specialist separated 5 instruments that are capable of increasing the productivity of the sugar-energy sector and that still have the potential to grow in Brazilian operations. Check it out:

1 - Harvest Planning

An essential tool for those who seek to maximise their productive capacity is a software for harvest planning. As its name says, its purpose is to develop an optimised plan for the harvest of sugarcane, defining the ideal period for cutting the areas according to varietal, operational and logistical criteria and restrictions. 
"HxGN AgrOn Harvest Planning allows you to draw up a harvest plan according to the needs of each company, considering topics such as estimated production per area, maturation curves, geographic distribution, weather forecasts and even the demand of the industry, among many others. It performs the planning according to the demands, always based on data faithful to the reality of the field", Borelli points out. 
With the support of this type of technology, it is possible to harvest at the time of higher production quality of the raw material, optimising the return on production. Furthermore, it becomes simpler to carry out a projection of production, analyze conflicts and bottlenecks of the process and have agility to deal with different scenarios from simulations. 

2 - Machine Monitoring

Data is the future of agribusiness — however, to have it, it is necessary to bet on sensors and monitoring software. Because of this, another resource impacting the sugar-energy sector is the monitoring of machines. Through it, it is possible to record the position of the machines in the field and the activities that are being carried out during cultivation and harvesting from second to second. 
This monitoring can also be integrated with pre-existing solutions on the machine and allows the configuration of alarms for certain situations. Detailed reports on equipment performance and behavior, such as area worked, distance traveled and speed, for example, are generated for analysis.

3 - Control Room

To complement the monitoring of the machines, it is important to have a technology that works with the display and management of the information obtained in the field. For this, today there are so-called control rooms — command center structures that receive data from production sites in real time, enabling a remote and centralised management of all operations.
“Its easy-to-use interface allows managers to view maps and reports, track working hours, and compare activities performed with planning goals,” explains the Solutions Business Manager. In addition to these performance reviews, the software allows the issuance of notifications and alerts of irregularities, incidents or performance problems on machines in real time, ensuring a more agile intervention.
In the case of the Hexagon product, the HxGN AgrOn Control Room, there are still modules specifically dedicated to the processes of soil preparation, planting, cultivation and treatment, harvesting and transportation of sugarcane.

4 - Haul-Out Dynamic Allocation

Another solution that helps increase the efficiency of operations is the HxGN AgrOn Haul-Out Dynamic Allocation, which was developed by Hexagon's Agriculture division specifically for the sugar-energy sector from the real demands of a large Brazilian plant. The system is responsible for synchronising the cutting rhythm of the harvesters with the movement of the haul-outs, indicating the ideal time for the displacement of these tractors. 
 The solution predicts when the haul-out in use will reach its limit and, from that, automatically and optimally calls a new tractor. This decision considers criteria such as the distances between the equipment, times and routes for movement and the synchronisation of the execution of the activities between the machines. "This prevents the harvester from interrupting the cutting of the cane and reduces the waiting time for a new haul-out to continue the operation, which increases the productivity of the equipment," reinforces Rafael Borelli.

5 - Transportation Optimisation

With the completion of the local logistics cycle, the synchronisation between the agricultural machines and the trucks that will transport to the plants begins. The challenge solved by technological systems, in this case, is to organise the routes so that there is no waste of time, delays or equipment stoppages, local lack of capacity or unnecessary costs. "At the end of the day, the idea is to have managed to transport as much cane as possible with the least number of locomotions, maximising productivity," Borelli comments.
 At Hexagon's Agriculture division, transport optimisation software has been developed so that the truck arrives at the work front at the optimal time, ensuring that the flow of raw material in the cutting, loading and transport operations is not interrupted, and making sure that the supply is continuous and has the shortest delivery time for the industry. With real-time truck monitoring and control, the system also decides the destination and route of each new trip through a dispatch optimisation algorithm.