Technology helps hold the drop in sugarcane productivity, even with area reduction

Conab projects an increase of 1.6% in the crop average productivity. Technologies that improve operations planning and cost control are essential to maintain the results of the sugar-energy sector

Sugarcane plants

17 January 2023

Competitiveness with grains such as corn and soy caused a further reduction in the area planted with sugarcane in Brazilian crops. In the latest estimate by the National Supply Company (Conab), the cultivation area for 2022/23 stood at 8.1 million hectares, a reduction of 2.6% compared to the past harvest. Despite this, productivity began to show signs of recovery, after two cycles of climatic adversities. With 1.6% of increase in the national average in the yield of the country's crops, production should reach 572.9 million tons, a slight decrease of 1% if compared with the previous cycle.

The technology use has proven to be essential for maintaining this scenario. Adherence to equipment capable of increasing the productivity of the sugar-energy sector ensures efficiency of operations in the field, even with the area reduction. According to Alexandre Alencar, Director of Research and Development of Hexagon's Agriculture division, a company present in the processes of 46% of Brazilian sugarcane production, the Brazilian sugar-energy sector still has a lot of room to grow and betting on technology is of the paths. 

“One of the essential tools to maximise production capacity is software for harvest planning”, explains Alexandre. The tool draws up an optimised plan, defining the ideal period for cutting areas according to varietal, operational and logistical criteria and restrictions. With technology support, it is possible harvesting at the moment in which raw material reaches its peak of productivity and quality, optimising the production return.

“HxGN AgrOn Harvest Planning allows you to draw up a harvest plan according to each company's needs, considering aspects such as estimated production by area, maturation curves, geographic distribution, weather forecasts and even industry demand. He does the planning according to the demands, always based on data faithful to the field reality”, points out Alexandre.

Monitoring and information management
When it comes to working with data, using sensors and monitoring software is a sure bet. “As a result, another resource that has an impact on the sugar-energy sector is machine monitoring, which controls both their position in the field as well as the activities carried out during cultivation and harvest at every second”, he explains.  Detailed reports on equipment performance and behavior, such as worked area, distance traveled and speed, for example, are generated for performance analysis.

Having a technology that allows the display and management of information obtained in the field helps complement monitoring. For this, there are so-called control rooms — command center structures that receive data from production sites in real time, enabling remote and centralised management of all operations.

“It is possible viewing maps and reports, track working hours and compare the activities carried out with the planning goals”, explains Alexandre. In addition to these performance analyses, the HxGN AgrOn Control Room allows issuing notifications and alerts of irregularities, incidents or performance problems on the machines in real-time, ensuring a more agile intervention.

Dynamic transshipment allocation and transport optimisation
Another solution that helps increasing operations efficiency in sugarcane plantations is the HxGN AgrOn Haul-Out Dynamic Allocation, a technology responsible for synchronising the cutting rhythm of the harvesters and the movement of haul-out, indicating the ideal moment tractors transfer. "The solution predicts when the haul-out in use will reach its limit and, from then on, it automatically calls a new tractor. This prevents the harvester from having to stop cutting the cane, reducing the waiting time for a new transfer to continue the operation, and increasing the entire process productivity”, he reinforces.

For the final phase, the synchronisation between machines that operate in the field and transport trucks begins. Organising the routes so that there is no waste of time, delays or equipment stops, it is also in charge of technology.  “At the end of the day, the idea is having managed to transport the maximum amount of sugarcane in the shortest possible time, again maximising productivity”, he comments.

With real-time monitoring and truck control, the system developed by Hexagon's Agriculture division decides the destination and route of each new trip through a dispatch optimisation algorithm. “The truck arrives at the work front at the ideal 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".