A Brazilian AgTech Unicorn?

sexta-feira, abril 13, 2018

Silicon Valley is the heart of technology and inovation and produced several Unicorn companies like Uber, AirBnb, Snapchat, Pinterest and Dropbox, that together worth more than US$125 billion.
Now, the eyes, ears and pockets from Valley are on AgTechs, companies that are foccused in the technology development for agribusiness. The race for searching new Unicorns is on full speed. And there is one simple reason for that, we are 7,5 billion people on this planet and we’ll be almost 10 billion by 2050, the population increases exponentially as much as demand for food, energy and consumer goods.
In parallel we have a scenario where the impacts from the climate changes and the frequency from the extremes events are reducing significantly the global agricultural production. We need urgently to find solutions to produce more with less, since the arable lands are limited, just as water and other inputs.
According to FAO, if the consumption continues in the same way, the world will have to increase the food production in 60% and the energy production in 50%. The food and energy safety of several countries is facing serious risk.
Researches appoint that Brazil, one of the main agricultural producers and exports of the world will be responsible for supply 40% from this additional demand due to its notable agricultural potential, presence of productions chains well-structured and high investment in research and technology. It´s exactly because of this that we can´t talk about AgTech without looking at Brazil.
By the way, the country has already produced unicorns in 2018: the company 99 — bought by the Chinese Didi Chuxing by US$1 billion in January and the company Nubank — after the input led by the fund DST Global some days ago. Other companies are on the way to become the next Brazilian unicorns like the GuiaBolso and PSafe.
For this reason, I have just spent some time in Brazil to know with more details what is happening there in the AgTech scenario. I have participated of some events, talked with some entrepreneurs and investors and I concluded that brazilians have already noticed the opportunity they have right in front of them. Among the companies that stand out in this scenario there are Solinfitec, creator of an automation system to plantations that received investments from TPG, one of the biggest investment funds in the world — the innovator Alluagro that has been conquering space by doing a different and practical service in geolocation of machines and agricultural implements and Bug Biological Agents that is pioneer in the field of biological control and became part of the group Koppert Biological System.
The list is large: StriderGênicaAsolumAltaveJetBovBovControlSmart AgriCheckplantAegroAgrosmart and several others. Each day more and more startups are being born through Brazil, mainly through regional accelerators. Brazilian people have a different way to face problems, a resilience and agility that has impressed me.
In the middle of so many innovative companies, one I considered quite remarkable: Acrotech. I have attended an event about the future of Agriculture where they presented a panel. The first impression was that they were dreaming too high trying to develop many different and complex technologies at the same time. But for my surprise are already developed or at a very advanced stage of development.
There are more than a dozen of technologies, among them, a breeding program, cloning protocol, monitoring and control of pests and diseases, methods and equipment of cultivation and harvest, besides storage technologies and industrial processing, that was developed through the years to solve real problems from the own company. Much more than apps or gadgets of specific application, the company is building a complete agroindustry value chain from Macaúba, a Brazilian palm tree that attracted people from all over the world due to its high productivity and versatility.
Everyone I talked to has a fascination for Macaúba and there is a reason, one hectare of Macaúba is capable to produce the equivalent of 18 hectares of soybean, there are 9 Ton of vegetable oil per hectare. But Macaúba is far from producing only oil, the plant is fully utilized and is a great source of protein, carbohydrates, fibers, lignin, vitamins and minerals. More important than this, there is no need to deforest to plant Macaúba, large commercial plantations are being made in degraded pasture areas of the Brazilian Cerrado (savannah), accelerating the recovery of these lands and rivers. Many people say Macaúba is the “Brazilian gold.”
Within this context of population growth and the need for disruptive innovations to overcome one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced, Acrotech seems to have solved a complex equation that challenges companies, governments, NGOs and researchers for decades: to produce food and energy in large scale, low cost, while preserving natural resources and also ensures and accelerates the recovery of the environment.
Meeting the demand of all the markets is a great challenge, which requires a great effort of several public and private agents, employment of diverse technologies and much investment. There will be necessary millions of additional hectares in a scary speed, creating opportunities for whoever would be ready for it.
Maybe I’m over excited with Acrotech for someone who only watched a 40-minute presentation — I’m waiting a reply from the company to a more detailed conversation — but if Macaúba is at least part of what I saw, it has the necessary conditions to generate a huge impact, a exponential scale gain and I dare to say that may is being born the Monsanto or Cargill of the future, or even the fusion of these both companies in one, but Sustainable.
Michael Reed AgTech MNiNg

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