Pests, lack of labour and waste: how to overcome the challenges that persist in the field

Technologies seek solutions to the main problems pointed out by farmers and rural managers.


25 October 2021

Agribusiness is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country, being seen as one of the great national powers and responsible for about 20% of Brazilian GDP. However, this does not prevent farmers from facing daily challenges to maintain their profitable business, even more considering the number of factors capable of interfering with agricultural productivity.

In addition to the climatic variations — which are unexpected and often uncontrollable — issues such as the waste of inputs and production, the lack of labour and the influence of pests on the crop are some of the most cited problems in the survey Habits of the Rural Producer, conducted by the Brazilian Association of Rural Marketing and Agribusiness (ABMRA).

"Due to its national and international importance, the agricultural market is very competitive and requires high productivity from farmers and rural managers. In this scenario, we see an increasing number of technological investments seeking solutions to these challenges that plague the daily life in the field," comments Bernardo de Castro, president of Hexagon's Agriculture division, a company that develops and provides agricultural and forestry technologies. For him, innovations work as allies and even help in compensating for unpredictable factors such as the climate.

Protection and pest control

Protection against invasive plants, pests and diseases — which can come from caterpillars, fungi, bacteria, viruses, etc. — is a very important factor in agricultural operations, since some of these evils are difficult to combat and, if not overcome, can compromise much or even all of the production of a crop.

To avoid these losses, producers and managers must be aware of the tools and techniques applied in production. "It is good practice to invest in spray control technologies, which ensure that the pesticides are well distributed throughout the agricultural area intelligently, without application failures," explains Bernardo de Castro.

Today, the use of sensors, drones and satellite images also helps to identify signs of diseases and pest infestations in plants through remote diagnostics. These precautions allow immediate action to combat threats, preventing the spread of the problem.

Qualification of the rural workforce

Another major challenge pointed out by rural producers is the shortage of labour, which involves both quantitative and qualitative aspects. This is because, although the countryside is a valuable income generator in Brazil, there is still a great expectation of migration to cities, which mainly involves the search for more infrastructure and quality of life.

According to a survey by the Agribusiness Department of the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (FIESP) in partnership with the Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives, only 28% of the children of rural entrepreneurs participate in the family's rural activities — most of the time, the heirs have no interest in remaining in the agricultural business.

In the qualitative scope, the difficulty is to find professionals trained for the new context of digital agriculture. Many rural workers are not used to technological tools and have difficulty following innovations and handling advanced equipment that is increasingly present in the field. To overcome these challenges, it is important that rural managers make investments in the training of their professionals, and that the government and labour institutions seek to offer more training opportunities. In addition, companies have increasingly invested in affordable technologies, making it easier for professionals in the field to use them.

Savings resources and efficient logistics

Waste is another barrier that hinders the advancement of Brazilian agribusiness productivity. The situation occurs throughout the production chain — from planting to delivery to the industry — generating losses of inputs, fuels, raw materials, and food.

However, technology is already advancing strongly on this issue. The improvement of different processes has helped to avoid losses that represent a great financial loss to the farmer. “One example of how innovation can reduce waste is the use of precision agriculture tools. A fertiliser controller, which automates and regulates the application of inputs intelligently, can eliminate up to 20% of the use of fertilisers and unnecessary correctives, in addition to reducing fuel expenses," explains the president of Hexagon's Agriculture division.

The transport stage also needs a lot of attention, as the products must arrive in good quality at their destination, which requires agility and logistics efficiency. According to Bernardo, this is currently possible through software that ensures synchronisation between machines and route optimization.

“The system ensures that the truck that will take the material to the industry arrives at the work front at the ideal time when the product was harvested and is available to be loaded. Furthermore, it ensures that the dispatch of these vehicles is carried out in the best way, considering factors such as the rhythm of the harvest, the number of machines involved in the operation, the average travel time, the working hours of drivers, and so on," he underlines.