Donde hay innovación, hay esperanza: Agritech para pequeños agricultores de América Latina

Where there's innovation, there's hope: Agritech for Latin America's small farmers

Smallholders and farmers, who produce up to 80% of the agricultural goods manufactured in Latam and the Caribbean, continue to rely on labor with few tools.

Technological innovation and machinery are widespread in the United States and European countries. But in countries such as Colombia, Brazil and Mexico, smallholders and farmers who produce up to 80% of the agricultural goods manufactured in Latin America and the Caribbean still depend on working with few tools.

In addition, climate change is turning agriculture upside down. Increased frost combined with drought is a major problem, particularly in the highlands of South American countries, costing farmers up to half of their annual harvest. To keep pace with changing weather conditions, farmers will eventually need agrotechnology equipment, which is becoming costly and complex for many local producers.

However, there are reasons for optimism. In Latin America, conventional farming practices are meeting innovative ones. Start-ups are not only developing innovative technologies that predict weather conditions, prevent crop failures and model plant diseases. They are also using creative strategies to provide access to smallholder farmers on tight budgets.

Climate change hits Latin American farmers especially hard
The world's food supply is at risk. Farmers are struggling with the consequences of climate change and human encroachment on nature.

However, the impact of climate change on smallholder farmers is even more severe, as crop failures threaten not only their daily income, but also their livelihoods.

As the World Resources Institute of Mexico explained in an interview "Smallholders share problems with large producers, such as the impact of increasingly frequent climatic phenomena like hurricanes, increased wind speed, droughts and access to water, as well as higher incidence of pests and plant diseases."

Soil frosts, whose effects have been aggravated by increasing soil dryness, are a good example. In Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, nighttime temperatures have been cooling for several years, resulting in the loss of millions of tons of crop per year.

"Frosts constitute a risk of crop loss for producers, especially for small farmers, who generally have less technology to combat the effects," Chilean professor Roberto Jara told El Mostrador.

"Unlike large farmers, small farmers additionally face other problems such as lack of capital, no access to credit, problems of access to markets, low prices for their products in local markets that make their commercialization unprofitable, high costs and lack of capacity to access differentiated markets such as organic production," said Mexico's World Resources Institute.

In addition, agriculture itself is facing a shift towards more sustainable practices and means to reduce the impact of agriculture on nature. Chemicals and fertilizers used in conventional agriculture kill soil microflora and microfauna, but most small farm owners often rely on them due to a lack of alternative technologies and education.

"We need the use of technologies to predict crop diseases and weather, and enable a shift from intensive use of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers to organic solutions for smallholder farmers," Leonardo Gava Mataram, Director of Agriculture Transition Brazil at Climate Bond Initiative, said in an interview. But how?

Local startups have their finger on the pulse

As the task of avoiding the effects of climate change on agriculture increases, while ensuring farmers' economic independence and development, so do the solutions.

Several organizations and startups are researching and developing in Agri and food tech, inventing products from soil technology, to precision technology, to big data solutions to help distribute local food. The region's Agritech market was valued at USD 1.21 billion in 2021, with expected growth to USD 2.13 billion by 2026.

Source: Entrepeneur