Inside The Life Of A Precision Agriculture Consultant In Brazil
Editor’s note: Maurício Nicocelli Netto is a precision agriculture consultant in Brazil. While he has witnessed a lot of growth in the precision market in his country in the past decade, there still has been many challenges with its adoption. In the article below, Mauricio shares some of his career highlights, and provides insight into how the precision agriculture industry is evolving in Brazil. In future articles, he will write about specific technology that he is currently using.
From the time I graduated from the Federal University of São Carlos in 2009 with a degree in Agronomy, I always had a dream of working in the central west and northeastern part of Brazil, where we have large farms producing soy, corn and cotton. After graduation, I began my career in monitoring pests and diseases in soy and cotton on a farm in western Bahia.
As time went by, I became a Technology Manager for Fazenda São Francisco. where I was responsible for the precision farming project that included 50,000 acres. In 2010, we collected soil samples in 6-, 12- and 20-acre grids. We also collected harvest maps from 13 John Deere STS 9750 combines and six Case IH Module Express 635 cotton harvesters, and took daily land application maps of 10 John Deere 4730 sprayers and two Air Tractor 502B airplanes. I was also responsible for fertilizer recommendations, which included variable rate application of limestone and phosphorus.
From 2010 to 2012, I saw great growth of precision agricultural companies in Brazil, where many farmers were encouraged to invest in this type of technology. However, over those years we experienced several challenges in precision ag, such as high variation in laboratory results of soil samples and unqualified people to work with the precision ag equipment. There has also been non-measurable, climatic factors that made data analysis difficult, such as a three-year drought in some regions of Brazil. I also noticed that only the best companies survived the precision agriculture market.
After three and a half years as a Technology Manager, I began to work in research and development for Monsanto, where we tested Dekalb hybrids seeded at variable rates in order to understand the best population for each input. In this project I worked throughout Mato Grosso, the largest soybean producing state in our country with 30 million tons expected for the 2016/17 season. This region produces soybeans in the summer (September to January) and corn in the second harvest (February-June). In some places with pivot irrigation, we have up to three harvests per year (soybeans, corn and beans).
Even with great production, we still have many areas of improvement in planting, spraying, logistics and connectivity. After a year and a half in this position, I was promoted to Product Support Specialist at Precision Planting, where I could learn a lot about plantability. I can truly say that the vSet Vacuum meter revolutionized the Brazilian agriculture industry. Today, five brands sell these types of seed dosers in Brazil, with superior results from John Deere seeders. And it is not by accident that John Deere bought Precision Planting. During this two-year period, I worked with FieldView in Brazil and saw many improvements in the system. After a long wait for the transition from Precision Planting to John Deere, I decided to start my own consulting company (MONAGRI) to help farmers use all the technology that the precision ag industry has to offer.
I work with a lot of mapping software brands, including Climate FieldView, Farmers Edge, Trimble and John Deere. These companies have been encouraging farmers to have more control over their operations. However, for large farms that are common in our territory, it is necessary to have professional people to manage this data. I currently work for a group that plants soy, corn and beans in 24,000 acres, and for a seed company that plants 30,000 acres.
In future articles on PrecisionAg.com, I plan to share more details of my experiences using precision agriculture in Brazil. In the meantime, feel free to contact me at [email protected].