Connected Farm Agribusiness Project

10-year Vision of the Connected Farm Project is materialized with TagoIO

Internet of Things: A plan for Brazil’s Agribusiness

In 2016 the Brazilian Government launched a request for a study of Internet of Things (IoT) to subsidize the development of the IOT National Plan, aiming to identify the best solutions available in the market in terms of technology and scalability. This bid was won by the joint venture formed by Brazilian Research Center of Development (CPqD) and consulting company McKinsey and Pereira Neto Macedo Advogados. For more than a year, they ran a study to identify proposals to guide public policies and to help improve the innovation support instruments for IoT from the point of view of the Brazilian government needs.

puc brazil government iot study agribusiness agriculture smart farming

This study gathered contributions from several sectors of the Brazilian market and even from abroad entities. At the end of 2018, the study was published and presented at Futurecom, the most important Brazilian telecommunications event.  The study pointed out which business verticals would be most important for the government in terms of IoT impact and benefits.

The selected verticals can be grouped into an acronym – SHAI – Smart cities, Health, Agribusiness, and Industry.

Brazilian IoT Pilots

Following the IoT Brazilian Plan, in 2018 BNDES launched a new bid aiming to select IoT pilot projects in the prioritized verticals. These projects would be financed by the Brazilian government with the participation of private companies and would last for 2 years starting effectively at the end of 2020. PUC-Rio was one of the 15 awarded nonprofit technological public or private institutions and since then has been working on its implementation in collaboration with many technological and financial partners in Health and Agribusiness solutions in IoT projects. In 2019 BNDES doubled the budget to support the IoT pilots, with R$ 30 million to projects in 32 cities in 11 Brazilian states.

Smart Agribusiness

Even though PUC-Rio has been selected to implement projects in other segments, all the efforts for the IoT pilot were initially focused on the Agribusiness vertical. Two regions were selected to evaluate IoT impacts and benefits, two farms in the countryside of São Paulo State (Holambra) and another located in Brazil’s central countryside, in Mato Grosso State (Santiago do Norte). These farms present vastly different realities.

iot connected smart field farm chart flow

While the farms located in São Paulo are characterized for being large rural properties dedicated to the export of its whole production, Santiago do Norte is immersed in a much different reality. Remotely located in a central region of the country, about 600 km from the capital Cuiabá, and close to the Xingu Indigenous Reserve, it lacks access to telecommunications infrastructure and its agricultural production is exclusively for the national market and local consumption.

Brazilian Agriculture Production

To proceed to the project description, let’s contextualize the Brazilian agribusiness market reality and the role it plays in the Brazilian economy. The agribusiness segment is one of, if not the most important for the Brazilian economy. It represents 20% of all gross domestic product (GDP) and more than 43% of its exports.

Last year, despite all the pandemic issues, it was the only segment that had growth in the last quarter of the year, even overtaking the US in terms of soybeans production worldwide. Most of this production is concentrated in the central west countryside – Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul.

It is important to emphasize that these results came from an industry segment that is highly mechanized and totally adept on using technologies over the past years. In Brazil we have two types of rural properties: large rural properties who represent almost 80% of the planted area of the country and small properties who represent the remaining 20%.

puc rio brazil crop field smart farm

However, these same small properties represent 77% of the total numbers of the rural properties. In other words, large properties cover most of the country and small properties cover only 20%.

Another point: a large part of the rural labor force is working on small properties that extend mainly across the center west/northeast of the country.  

In addition to that, this rural labor force has been falling in recent years because of this intense mechanization of the sector. Summing all this up we have an Agribusiness sector, which is so important to the Brazilian economy. It has its regional differences but despite all the investment in technology over the past years is still considered as an “Agro 3.0” and the sector needs to move to the next step. That would be the “Agro 4.0”, where besides all the technology available on the field they also would have access to telecom infrastructure in a way that all production control can be done remotely via the Internet.

The Challenge

The internet access in Brazil for rural properties is an issue that is related directly to differences between their sizes. For large rural properties, even though they are far from large urban centers, there are technological alternatives such as the use of satellite networks to provide connectivity to the plantations. And mostly the large properties have CAPEX to make the necessary investments on them.

puc rio rual truck delivery smart farm agribusiness iot
Santiago do Norte (Mato Grosso)

The same does not apply to small properties. They are the largest in quantity but cannot invest in technology which refrains its possibilities to increase their yield. In this context, the government’s plan aims to bring IoT technology and make it more accessible to these small properties, reducing the distance in terms of access to technology between small and large farmers. That is to say that the main purpose is to equalize access for all, improving opportunities for both. Internet access in agricultural regions in Brazil is not a question of technology but mainly of investment.

The Solution

Although Macuco Farm (at Santiago do Norte) might be considered a small rural property, its extensions are huge. For the project, 3 crops were selected to verify the technology impacts and benefits: lemon, manioc, and pasture. And for each of them, 6 use cases will be evaluated.

The Project considers evaluating LPWAN data network connectivity (LoRa, NB-IoT). The LoRa network will be implemented with two types of use, the American Tower network as a public provider and a private use of LORA with gateways from some providers. The NB-IoT network will be supplied by TIM/Arqia (Mobile Network Operator).

The project will test those two connectivity options, platforms and the IoT devices associated. All the data collected from the IoT sensors/devices will be sent to the  Satellite Terminal (VSAT) which will conform the Backhaul, gathering the info and then sending it to Hispamar Teleport (Rio de Janeiro) and from there to the network servers on the cloud. At the farm there is also a possibility to flow the data collected via a local ISP (Internet Service Provider). So, for the project we are considering both options at this moment.

iot smart farm solar panel puc rio

A key component of the project is the IoT Platform (core, components, GUI and dashboards) which will concentrate and exhibit all the information. In that case one of the platforms we chose to work with is TagoIO because of its features, functionalities, rapid customization and also for the expertise demonstrated during the talking we had about the project.

The Results

As previously mentioned, the pilot project will last for 2 years. Throughout these years, the results to be achieved and which serve as guidelines are already defined. We exemplify below the main ones.

  • Construction and testing of a platform enabling the flow of data, accessibility of information and the increase of knowledge in the agronomic management of soil, water, and energy, integrating elements involved in Agriculture.
  • Integration of technological tools to support decision-making in rural property management to optimize the use of natural resources such as soil and water, enhancing an increase in crop productivity and the operational profitability of field interventions.
puc rio dashboard inside mac frame smart farm dashboard iot
  • Implementation of a platform to monitor variations in environmental and soil conditions to guide decision making for soil preparation, time of planting, foliar fertilization, monitoring of plant growth, assessment of plant health, correction of planting, irrigation techniques, using IoT (technological connectivity solutions, data collection and analysis platforms and useful information services for the producer). This work will be guided with the technological partner EMBRAPA (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária)
  • Implementation of an asset management platform and performance management of agricultural machinery aimed at increasing profitability in production.
  • Give subsidies to the BNDES to redirect investments in technology to be used in the Agrobusiness vertical market. The pilot’s project will also be qualified by INMETRO (Instituto Nacional de Metrologia, Qualidade e Tecnologia).
  • Compose a commercial solution with all the technological partners of the project to scale the tested and approved set of technologies for the different use cases.

“Our partnership with TagoIO has allowed us to build a dynamic & scalable IoT platform, leading us to move forward quickly on obtaining and interpreting the data received from different types of IOT devices.”

Explains Marlene Pointes, Coordinator of the Program IoT Pilotos at Pontifical University of Rio de Janeiro.

About Puc-Rio

Able Device is a provider of technology for PUC-Rio was the first private higher education institution in the country, created by the Catholic Church. It was founded in 1940 by Cardinal D. Sebastião Leme and Father Leonel Franca S.J. It is a nonprofit philanthropic institution.

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