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Brazil leverages technology to increase productivity in the field

Agricultural Census 2017

Data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) shows irrigation increased by 52% in the last 10 years
published: Aug 16, 2018 06:45 PM last modified: Aug 16, 2018 06:45 PM

Agência Brasil


New technologies are coming into play for Brazilian farmers, changing their way of thinking, acting and working and creating a new status quo for productivity in the field. According to the 2017 Agricultural Census, irrigation use in Brazil increased by 52% between 2006 and 2017, both in the number of establishments using it (over 500,000) and total irrigated areas (just over six million hectares).

Four years ago, Alcides Lima, a sugar cane farmer in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, acquired a loan to invest in irrigation. The result, according to him, is seen at every harvest. "It was great. Drought is my biggest enemy in the production process, but after investing in irrigation, which also uses water more efficiently, my productivity has increased," he said.

After a R$ 530,000 loan, Lima now irrigates 98 hectares of crops. According to him, the loan will be fully repaid this year and his average yield rose from 56 to 84 tonnes. "If I hadn't made that investment, my production rates would be a disaster now," he said.

From importer to exporter

According to Cleber Oliveira Soares, executive director at Embrapa's Innovation and Technology division, the advent of new technologies in the field and agribusiness as a whole has allowed productivity levels to greatly increase in Brazil. "Just remember that Brazil was a net food importer 40 years ago. We once imported 70% of our food, and today we are one of the biggest food exporters in the world. This evolution took place thanks to the technologies developed and that were incorporated by farmers", he emphasised.

According to him, a great example are the technologies associated to the horticultural industry, which made it possible for producing at scale food that was not even produced in Brazil. "Grape, for example, was a temperate crop grown in Europe. Today it is produced practically throughout the Brazilian territory. This is the result of our technologies that helped farmers," he explained.

Agricultural mechanisation

The Census of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) also showed a 49.7% increase since 2006 in the number of tractors in Brazil, which reached 1.22 million units last year. The result is much optimised work in the field. The number of farms using tractors in the country increased by more than 200,000, reaching 733,997 in 2017.

Internet and telephony

Internet access in agricultural establishments is also a reason for celebration in the field. The number of farms with internet access increased 1,790.1%, from 75,000 in 2006 to about 1.4 million in 2017. At least 659,000 of the farms surveyed reported having access to broadband internet and another 909,000 via mobile.

Still according to the Census, the number of farms with access to telephone service has also increased greatly, going from 1.2 million to 3.1 million properties with access in ten years (a 158% increase).

The 2017 Agricultural Census has so far identified just over five million rural properties in Brazil, which together occupy a total 350,253,329 hectares. This represents a 5% increase over the 16.5 million hectares reported in 2016.