Sugarcane: sector has good growth prospects with more investments in technology

Estimated Gross Production Value for 2023 is R$103 billion. Solutions help bring more efficiency and speed to production and plan the crop more effectively

sugar cane plantation

13 June 2023

Investment in technology should boost Brazilian sugarcane production in the coming years. The culture has an important participation in the Value of Agricultural Production (VBP) forecast for 2023, which pointed to the best total estimate in 34 years (R$ 1,265.2 trillion). Of this amount, crops have expected revenues of R$900.8 billion — 10.5% more than last year — and sugarcane ranks third among the products that should most contribute to this growth, second only to soy and corn. The estimate of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock for the VBP of the culture this year is R$103 billion.

The good outlook for the sugar-energy sector, one of the most important in the Brazilian economy, is linked to increased investments in technology. According to Rafael Borelli, who has been following the segment for 14 years, and acts as Commercial Solutions Manager for the Agriculture division of Hexagon, a company that develops and supplies digital agricultural solutions, over the last 10 years, the demand for sugarcane technology has been growing linearly and exponentially. “In the past, work in the field used to rely on old machines, manually and the responsibility was very much in the hands of the operators. Due to technological advances, we had an important evolution of the processes carried out in the field”, he explains.

Activities that were previously carried out manually were automated, which helped to increase efficiency and speed in production. Technology has also brought advances to off-farm processes, from crop planning to post-harvest data analysis. “Technology has been improving to meet the need for assistance in decision-making. Today it is possible to plan everything that will happen during the harvest, in a short-term period, even a more strategic layer with long-term plans, looking at a horizon of up to 20 years ahead”, Rafael explains.  With the evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT), it is possible to plan closer to reality, what actually happens on a daily basis in the field. “These are data generated for every activity that the machine is working on, every second, so based on this information, second by second, decision-making becomes faster”, he adds.

Despite advances, Brazilian sugarcane producers still face significant challenges. Lack of connectivity is one of them. “This is a crucial point for the sugar-energy segment to develop. “You must have connectivity in the field, if you don't have it, you'll be in the dark and you'll keep looking in the rearview mirror”, warns Rafael. He also mentions personnel training for operations. “It is essential to train human capital to absorb all this technology that is being introduced in the field”.

More economy combined with sustainability
The active management of operations makes it possible to correct errors more quickly and accurately. “For example, if the operator is harvesting sugarcane at a speed that is not ideal for that soil, it will be damaged by excessive speed, which will pull out all the stumps. This will lead to an increase in spending on fertilisers in the next harvest”, exemplifies Rafael. However, benefits from investment in technology are not only financial. One of the great challenges of the sector is the environmental issue.

The production of sugarcane is an intensive activity in natural resources and can have a significant impact on the environment. Therefore, the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices and the search for new technologies are essential to ensure the long-term viability of the sector. “Companies are already investing, but I believe that for the next three years we will see an even greater investment in technological growth within the mills”, evaluates Rafael.