By Leonardo Gottems, reporter for AgroPages
This year 2019 marked the beginning of activities in Brazil by the American startup Indigo, which is considered to be one of the most valuable "unicorns" among agtech startups worldwide. Founded in 2014 (under the name of Symbiota), Indigo is valued at US$ 3.5 billion and will start its commercial operation in Brazil, offering biological treatment of soybean seeds with microbes.
It is only the first service being offered in the country, though the startup already operates worldwide with several cutting-edge technologies. Among the solutions that Indigo offers in its portfolio are the development of farming, marketing platforms, contracts and logistics - all with blockchain technology.
The artificial intelligence platform first makes a reading of the soil and climate of the terrain to be planted, and selects which are the most suitable microorganisms for the treatment of the seed from a database with more than 70 thousand strains of DNAs sequenced - which they call "field probiotics."
"We are only applying in agriculture the many discoveries that have been made before. The biotechnology industry is advancing with the help of such innovations as lowering DNA sequencing, machine learning, and cloud computing," said David Perry, Indigo's chief executive.
One of the first services to be offered in Brazil will be the biological treatment of seeds with microbes. The payment system offered is barter, with the startup receiving half of the additional production that results from biological seed treatment.
The contracts will be closed with exclusive blockchain technology. This avoids the time consuming processes of the barter currently used in Brazil. The new form of payment will allow Indigo to attract investors from other areas, who are not accustomed to investing in agribusiness, rather than resorting only to the chemical industries or trading.
Indigo also established a partnership with Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Company) and more than 200 private farms that have given way to testing grain and fiber in Brazil. Brazilian agtech Agrosmart will also partner with the Americans, providing satellite imaging and remote sensing.
Indigo's new product development approach is one of the startup's major differentiators. Instead of studying an active principle to apply to a product, the researchers identify which microorganisms are present in the best local soybeans and which are lacking in others with yield problems. From this analysis, beneficial microorganisms are developed to be applied to the seeds.
"The great advantage of this method is that you can put something new on the market every year, at most every year and a half, instead of 10 to 12 years with the traditional method," says Daniel Bachner, the executive who led the introduction of Indigo in Brazil in the first year of the company's arrival. Currently, Bachner has integrated another agtech project - InstaAgro - the first platform for trade and delivery of inputs through the internet in the country.