At least 35 start-ups already developed digital solutions for each step of milk production in Brazil which has 20 million cows.
A silent revolution is transforming the Brazilian dairy sector. Since 2016, startups, Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), private companies and universities have joined forces in order to transform a high potential sector into a world-class reality in the international market.
According to “2º Censo Agtechs Brasil”, released at the end of 2018, there were 35 agtechs already delivering digital solutions specifically for all milk producers all over Brazil, just inside farms.
Photo: Herbert Wiggerman
Among these startups, Ideagri, Cow Med, Z2s Automatic Systems, OnFarm, Milk Chain, Macofren, Systech Feeder, MobiMilk and Agro Marra are already ‘successful cases’ and, also, there are free tools that are offered by Embrapa (related to Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply), such as APP Leite and ‘Roda da Reprodução’.
However, the challenge is enormous. Currently, the Brazilian dairy sector has around 20 million cows, a huge internal market with more than 210 million inhabitants, large production up to 35 billion of litres and 900,000 producers.
While big companies and cooperatives have adopted new technologies and practices, most small farmers could not. Some cooperatives and companies have the same productivity level as that of New Zealand, Europe or United States, easily reaching more than 6,000 of litres per cow per year, nonetheless, simultaneously, the Brazilian average still keep to around 2,000 litres.
The ag-tech movement relates to animal nutrition, digital managing systems, automatisation, machinery, monitoring etc. All kinds of innovative technologies are used such as Big Data, Data Science, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), predictive analysis, Block Chain, drones, sensors, among others.
Paulo do Carmo Mantins, chief at Embrapa Dairy, says there are start-up solutions for the whole chain and adoption process is already achieving different profiles. Namely, medium-sized and small producers are entering into the age of digital farming.
“This is already happening. Milk production requires a lot of decision making in a daily routine. Digital solutions facilitates the producer’s life and enhances the offerings to consumers, who will have cheaper and better product,” says Mantins.
Martins highlights the role of young entrepreneurs that understand that they are key in improving a sector which moves US$ 21 billion per year and which needs every kind of solution.
Ideas for milk
Since 2017, Embrapa Dairy has been developing the project ‘Ideas For Milk’, which consists of 16 companies (as Nestle, Microsoft, SAP, IBM, Danone, Parmalat, Bayer, MSD, Cisco and others), six institutions and more than 20 universities all over the country with the same goal.
“I think the dairy sector has the most structured ecosystem for innovation in Brazil. It is probably developing faster than any other. In 2014, we were already aware that the Brazilian agribusiness was quite late regarding digital farming. In 2016, we had organised the first ag startup competition in Brazil,” adds Martins.
Currently, the ‘Ideas for Milk’ project has three main actions: “Caravana 4.0’ (Caravan 4.0), “Vacathon” (HackaCow, in Portuguese) and “Desafio de Starups” (Start-up Challenge). All of them have national coverage and involve hundreds of people in each edition.
The “Caravana 4.0” is a road show which has gone to 40 cities in over 10 states in 40 days during August and September this year. Each event gathers information regarding the Brazilian dairy chain and the ‘Ideas for Milk’ projects that are taking place at universities.
Its goal is to gather 2,700 students from several courses such as agronomy, veterinary, animal husbandry, administration, economics, engineering, computer science, nutrition in a single environment together with dairy entrepreneurs.
Vacathon is a bootcamp event that receives students from 20 universities for a week, from 28 October to 1 November, at Embrapa’s Farm in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais state. The event receives students to experience a dairy farming routine, learn about tech tools by innovative companies like Microsoft and Cisco and create solutions.
Desafio de Sartups (Start-ups challenge)
Finally, the 4th edition of ‘Desafio de Sartups’ was held in São Paulo, at Google Cube, on 22 November 2019, to select five best new tools among dozens of proposals from all over Brazil. “One thing is certain: the level of competition has risen,” Mantins says.
- The winner was Volutech, which presented a tool for measuring volume and temperature of milk in the cooling tanks accurately. It replaces the traditional method that uses a ruler.
- Second place went to Bionexus, a start-up that already serves about 1,000 properties and 20,000 animals. The start-up showed how to integrate best management tools in a single platform.
- Criatech Intergado took third place with a smart scale, which is able to measure weight gaining and identify abnormalities. The deviations indicate, for example, that animals can have some disease.
AgroUp is a national technology network for the field, from the perspective of farmers, which identifies and locally solves Brazilian problems – initially in five states (Bahia, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais end Rio Grande do Sul).
The actions are being carried out under the coordination of Senar (National Service of Agricultural Learning) which is related to CNA (National Agriculture and Livestock Producers Confederation).
Regarding dairy sector, they promoted the first Hackaton AgroUp MG between 25th and 27th October in Santa Rita do Sapucaí, in Minas Gerais, in order to find further solutions for the Brazilian milk chain.
Promising dairy ag-techs
Cow Med uses collars for monitoring cow rumination, activity and idleness and emits alerts, early warnings of health problems and regarding changes on diet or management through an app.
Z2s is an automatic system for cleaning piped milking, milk transferers and cooling tanks. It comprises three integrated systems that reduce labour demand and standardises processes, raising milk quality.
OnFarm joins three technologies to identify the main mastitis-causing bacteria on the farm, with diagnosis within 24 hours. OnFarmApp controls every step during the analysis and allows remote monitoring with performance indicators.
Milkchain certifies milk quality inside farms, during transportation and provide data to optimise collection routine. This tool uses Milk Lid, a smart device which measures temperature, volume, humidity and opening and closing tanks.
Macofren is a paper post-test for quick, simple and simultaneous identification of common adulterants in milk samples by IoT solution. All produces need is to photograph this paper using a cellphone and analyse the image.
Systech Feeder supplies feed and monitors, in real time, intaking and weight gain of lactating calves. The remote device emits visual alerts during sudden change of consumption and time for weaning.
Mobimilk is container which works as a ‘milking room mobile’. Simply connect water and energy to start milking cows, without civil works. Moreover, the tool monitors somatic cell counting and animal’s temperature, issuing alerts.
Agromarra manages production in real time through app or web interface, tracking each animal indexes and profitability operations. It is ready to connect to devices such as barcode earring, drone, scale and automatic milking.
Ideagri is a system for tracking production, breeding, health and management indicators. Data is collected manually or by equipment (sticks, scales, electronic earrings and others) without the need for internet.