Agriculture and technology – Opinion

The agricultural sector is undergoing a true revolution, linked, firstly, to a paradigm shift in the world economy, which increasingly attributes symbolic and financial value to natural resources and, secondly, to the conquest of new technological frontiers.

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the field is one of those frontiers. Some of its applications, present or future, are relatively well-known, such as the increasingly focused and accurate weather forecasts or the various automated agricultural vehicle projects. But that, so to speak, is the tip of the iceberg. The greatest potential gains in efficiency and sustainability are linked to the use of Artificial Intelligence in soil and irrigation monitoring.

Farming is one of the main consumers of water in the country. According to the National Water Agency (ANA), our rural properties draw approximately 32 trillion liters of water from rivers for irrigation in a year, which corresponds to almost 50% of the water consumed in Brazil. It should be noted that these properties correspond to just over 10% of the area occupied by crops, according to a survey by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). Most of our agriculture does not have irrigation systems and therefore depends on the rainfall.

Therefore, any implement that makes water consumption more efficient is welcome, especially in a scenario of increasing scarcity of this natural resource in the face of climate change.

AI tools have made it possible to carry out a kind of scan of different types of soils, with their different porosities, to predict or simulate, from this detailed profile, how a fluid will behave in it. In other words, this technology allows the farmer to calculate, with much more precision, how much water will be needed for a given planted area, or what the water retention capacity presented by each soil. This results in savings, both financial and natural resources.

This type of technology will also help to deal with other variables: will adding a substance to the soil increase water retention or not? While? What materials can facilitate the transport of certain nutrients to the roots of plants? Artificial Intelligence has provided increasingly accurate answers to all these questions, which will allow for an increasingly rational and sustainable use of agricultural land and natural resources such as water.

So far, we’ve talked about how new technologies like AI are revolutionizing farming. But a country that seeks insertion in the economy of this century must also consider the value – financial, including – of preserving its standing forests.

Experts predict that the carbon market will become the world’s largest in the coming decades, surpassing even that of oil and gas before 2050, according to the magazine. Forbes. In fact, in 2020 alone, this sector of the so-called green economy moved €229 billion, a figure 20% above the results of the previous year.

Carbon credits represent a precious financial asset, especially in a country like Brazil, which has a significant amount of its forests preserved and the maintenance of environmental preservation areas within large rural properties represents an economically more advantageous decision than predatory planting. .

Unlike other nations of the same size, with similar international insertion, Brazil can aim for a “zero carbon” economy in the coming decades – that is, a production chain that eliminates greenhouse gas emissions or, in addition, that offset with carbon credits. Our environmental heritage allows for this ambition.

However, there is still a long way to go. In 2020 (last year with consolidated data), Brazilian banks granted R$ 376 billion in credit for operations in the field of the “green economy”, according to data from the Brazilian Federation of Banks (Febraban). This amount corresponds to 21.75% of the total amount borrowed, a proportion similar to that recorded in the previous year (22.48%).

The consolidation of modern, efficient and technological farming, tuned to the international flows of the carbon market, is essential for us to achieve these sustainability goals. This is the key to building an agriculture properly adapted to the challenges of the 21st century. The themes chosen for the 2022 edition of the Bunge Foundation Award – Carbon credit and regenerative agriculture and Artificial Intelligence and the use of water and soil – are in tune with these challenges.

After all, it is the role of society as a whole – especially companies – to find sustainable solutions for the country’s economic and social development.

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SÃO ADVOGADO, CURATOR OF THE BUNGE FOUNDATION AWARDS, PRESIDENT OF THE ACADEMY OF LEGAL LETTERS; AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF FUNDAÇÃO BUNGE

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