National technology: production of innovative solutions in Brazil expands the potential of agribusiness

With knowledge of the Brazilian reality, national technology companies invest in products that meet the needs of farmers and rural managers and contribute to the country's economy


11 August 2021

Technological innovations are almost always automatically associated with urban issues, in futuristic scenarios with advanced robots and gadgets. However, in a country like Brazil, where agribusiness represents about 20% of national GDP, technology goes far beyond cities, being essential also for advances in rural and forestry areas.

According to a study by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) in partnership with the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), technology is responsible for more than 60% of total Brazilian productivity in agriculture — and the trend has been going on for a long time, considering that, in 2006, this percentage was already greater than 50%.

"The positive data of this national sector should intensify even more in the coming years, with the increase of technological solutions for connectivity and monitoring, rapidly growing technologies, but still little explored in the country compared to the United States and Europe," explains Bernardo de Castro, president of Hexagon's Agriculture division.

Located in Florianópolis (SC), the division is one of several companies that develop and provide technologies for the field in Brazil. Considering its size and strategic position, in addition to the growth rate of agricultural production above 4% — surpassing the United States (1.9%) and China (3.3%), for example — the country could not fail to explore the potential to create solutions for this market sector.

In addition to consolidated companies such as Hexagon, there are already more than 300 national start-ups operating in this field, according to the last AgTech Census of Start-ups Brazil. "We have seen a trend of investment in technological solutions for the field, fostering the so-called agrotechnology. There are more and more options to assist the producer and the rural manager in their daily lives, at all stages of the production cycle: from the preparation of planting and harvesting to the logistics of transport of the raw material and the analysis of results, whether in small or large productions," states Bernardo de Castro. 

Local knowledge

One of the strengths of the technology produced in Brazil is the knowledge about the reality of Brazilian agribusiness. The president of Hexagon's Agriculture division, Bernardo de Castro, for example, grew up listening to conversations about the business challenges of corporate farms. His grandfather raised cattle and his uncles worked as managers in large agricultural units. 

That's how, as a recent graduate, he decided to create a start-up solution developer with two friends focused on precision agriculture, knowing the needs of these businesses closely. Ten years later, in 2014, the multinational Hexagon acquired the company, keeping the headquarters and the factory in Brazil and Bernardo in the position of president.

Today, there is still some resistance from small farmers in relation to the novelties of the market. However, according to research by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Company (EMBRAPA), the Brazilian Support Service for Micro and Small Enterprises (SEBRAE) and the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), at least 84% of producers and providers of rural services make use of some digital technology for the benefit of agricultural production.

"We can consider that there has already been a ‘change of generations’ in the command of many agricultural businesses, which promotes the adoption of information technologies in this environment. The work of universities, research institutes and early adopters, that is, innovative producers that serve as a reference for others, are the most efficient ways to promote this application", considers Bernardo. Access to technologies produced in the country itself, with care for usability and the provision of qualified technical support, also contribute to this popularisation.

And the national technology for agribusiness is not restricted only to Brazilians, but also exported to the rest of the world. Thus, along with agricultural production — which is responsible for about 50% of exports in the country — the distribution of the technology manufactured here also collaborates with the national economy. Hexagon's Agriculture division, for example, has more than 25,000 pieces of equipment in operation in 36 countries, contributing to the advancement of agribusiness worldwide.