What to expect from agribusiness in 2022?

President of Hexagon's Agriculture division, a company that develops and provides digital solutions for the field, points out five topics that should drive the sector's year

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21 January 2022

After a growth of 9.81% in the first half, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Brazilian agribusiness ends 2021 with an approximate expansion of 9.4% compared to the result of the previous year — when the sector had already made advances, even in the midst of the worst period of the Covid-19 crisis. With the new statistics, the segment now represents approximately 29% of national GDP, according to estimates by the Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil (CNA). Much of these positive results are due to investment in agricultural technologies. The speed of implementation of innovations in the sector has grown increasingly, bringing increases in productivity and process efficiency. In 2022, it should be no different. The CNA's projection is that the agribusiness GDP will continue to advance, with growth of at least 3% to 5% compared to 2021. New technologies and improved solutions should further contribute to the achievement of digital agriculture. In this scenario, Bernardo de Castro, president of Hexagon's Agriculture division — a company that develops and provides technological solutions for the field — points out five topics to be aware of in 2022:

Return of events

In 2020 and 2021, several fairs and fundamental events for Brazilian agribusiness needed to be cancelled or postponed due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. It is estimated that more than BRL 25 billion ceased to circulate considering the cancellation of seven of the main events in the sector and the estimated values of their last face-to-face achievements. Although in 2021 some fairs were adapted to the online format, the number of companies and visitors did not reach the expected for the face-to-face versions. Furthermore, with the change in experience, the expectations of major launches, partnership formations and demonstrations of technologies ended up decreasing. "Now, with the advancement of vaccination and the gradual resumption of activities, it is expected that these events will happen again in person in 2022, which should strengthen the market and expand innovations in the sector," comments Bernardo. In some cases, events should adopt a hybrid format, with the realisation of the face-to-face fairs simultaneously to their digital versions, which should enhance public participation while resuming the advantages of “live” exchanges.

More connection with 5G

With the end of the 5G auction, expectations for the start of operations of this connection are high. According to the Ministry of Communications, Brazilian agribusiness should be the sector most benefited by the implementation of technology in the country, considering that today about 23% of the Brazilian rural area still does not have access to the internet. The fifth generation of mobile network will cause a great transformation in the field by enabling a larger, more agile data transmission with greater reach. "With its great potential and lower operating cost than 4G, 5G should boost connectivity in the field, enabling the implementation of transmission towers in more distant areas. This should reflect an increase in the adoption of technologies that involve Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Business Intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT), capable of strongly increasing the efficiency of the field," explains the president of Hexagon's Agriculture division.

Monitoring of operations

Bernardo also indicates that the more intensive use of data being generated by equipment in the field is another trend that is expected to grow in 2022. "It is possible to use the same devices that perform precision agriculture functions — such as application of inputs and auto steering, for example — for fleet monitoring. This is an opportunity to leverage the digitisation of the field through the more effective use of this information," he adds. With monitoring, managers have a view of what is happening and a guarantee that the maximum performance of each machine is being performed. In the study Digital Agriculture in Brazil conducted by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), most of the interviewees stressed the increasing need for the use of digital technologies to, mainly, obtain information and plan the activities of the property (67.1%) and the management of the rural area (59.7%), demonstrating the potential of this monitoring for the market.

Concern about the ESG agenda

Goals related to environment, social policy and governance (ESG) issues are increasingly present in the agendas of companies in all sectors of the economy. In agribusiness, in particular, the topic is highlighted, considering the impact that agricultural practices can generate to the environment. In this context, there should be an increase in the adoption of techniques and technologies in 2022 aimed at sustainability in agriculture, as well as research on new applications capable of improving this issue. "Technologies already play a strong role in this discussion. In 2020, for example, approximately 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO₂) were no longer released into the environment due to the use of Hexagon technologies on about 8 billion hectares of farms around the world," Bernardo emphasises. This year, the expectation is that innovative solutions for the achievement of productive and sustainable processes will be even more popularised. "We cannot separate agriculture from the environment because we work with what nature provides. Knowing how to make the best use of it is a commitment by the sector," he says.

Technologies for input savings

In 2021, the prices of agricultural inputs increased, accumulating highs that exceeded 100%. Given the scenario, the expectation of the Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil (CNA) is that this is one of the biggest challenges in the sector for 2022. To overcome the situation, Bernardo believes that the adoption of techniques and products to rationalise the use of fertilisers and pesticides should be a priority among producers and companies in the industry. "A fertiliser controller, for example, regulates and automates the application of inputs intelligently, reducing failures and fertilisation deviations, which increases productivity and can generate a savings of about 20% in the inputs applied," he comments. Similarly, there is also sprayer control technology, which helps in combating invasive plants, pests and diseases in farming. This controller ensures the distribution of the ideal dosage of pesticides without application failures and also promotes an automatic shutdown of the spray section in overpass situations, avoiding waste.