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jun 06, 2017

Brazilian state launches agricultural innovation project

The southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina is launching a new pilot project in agricultural innovation that brings new technological solutions to familial agrarian life and production. The project will serve as a model for other regions and countries also interested in using tech solutions in family-run agricultural businesses and production.

In Brazil, there are over 4.4 million family-owned agricultural establishments across the country. Within the greater scope of natural agriculture, family-run businesses make up 83% of the total 5.4 million. These family-run businesses use 21% of the country's cultivatable land, employing 12.8 million rural workers and producing 60% of the food consumed in Brazil. In the state of Santa Catarina, 90 percent of the 195,000 rural properties occupy under 50 hectares, pertaining to traditional family producers. 

However, even with such a familial force in Brazil’s agricultural sector, these businesses still have much potential to explore. The new pilot project, a continuation of the project SC Rural, is called the Nucleus of Technological Innovation for Family-run Agriculture (NITA) and is funded by the World Bank in partnership with the state of Santa Catarina. The World Bank has already invested $180 million in the development of the state’s agriculture. 

“We started out with an exploratory phase and identified that there is a demand and supply. Now we need to understand what the challenges are in offering these innovative technology projects, and what the opportunities would be, in the future, to transform this into services and solutions,” said Wanessa Matos, the program assistant in the agricultural sector of the World Bank, during a meeting with family business representatives from the region.

The concept behind NITA is to create a network that brings together the public sector Brazilian Service for the Support of Small and Micro-Businesses (Sebrae) with universities, organizations, and business associations. For example, in the city of Chapecó there is already a partnership with Deatec, the Association of the Tech Pole of the West, representing the western region of the state. 

The idea behind creating this kind of network is to bring together the great minds of Brazilian agricultural and tech professionals. Various grants, prizes, and competitions have already been opened, inviting innovative solutions for the rural sector in order to facilitate farming life and increase productivity.

Data from the original project, SC Rural, shows just how effective this initiative can be. A survey by the Center for Socioeconomic and Agricultural Planning of the state of Santa Catarina revealed that the business endeavors supported by SC Rural increased the value of their sales by 181% since 2010. During this period, over 12,000 families received services and 751 new businesses were financed. 

The SC Rural program started in 2011 and will end in June 2017, to be continued as NITA.