“Technology to control cotton pests” - Interview with Renato Xavier and André Cantarelli from Checkplant / Farmbox
Oct. 13, 2020
By Leonardo Gottems, Reporter for AgroPages
Cotton culture is current one of the most profitable and most challenging cultures in Brazil, due to the pressures caused by the climate and plagues inherent to tropical agriculture. In this interview, we spoke with two representatives of Checkplant/Farmbox, André Cantarelli (CEO) and Renato Xavier (Customer Success Coordinator), who talked about available technologies and solutions offered to startups.
What is the main challenge for Brazilian cotton producers in terms of crop protection?
Xavier: Brazilian cotton farmers are technicians and use many available technologies, from the process before sowing to the processing of cotton. In terms of plant protection, the challenge is still controlling cotton boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis), a pest that is very harmful to plants. Several studies have attempted to make target-tolerant varieties feasible, but nothing has been launched on the market yet.
What is the importance of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) with chemical and biological controls?
Xavier: A well-executed MIP, which accounts for the conditions of the micro-region, produces beneficial results for the production system. In addition to positioning yourself correctly, it is still possible, in some cases, to schedule some insecticide applications.
Due to monitoring, decision-making is more assertive, safe and efficient, ensuring sustainability and also a possible reduction in the cost of crop production.
The advent of biological insecticides is another innovative alternative for the sector, as they are products that have a long-term residual effect on the environment, so they are present in the field for longer. So far, cotton producers have no way of maintaining control with insecticides, be it chemical or biological.
Under this context, how can Checkplant/Farmbox offer a solution to cotton farmers?
Xavier: The adoption of digital tools, such as Farmbox, developed by the Rio Grande do Sul company, Checkplant, will help cotton growers throughout the production process. Focused on plant protection, producers using the Farmbox tool are able to organize their farms’ monitoring strategies while prioritizing plots that need more attention and ensuring that no plots are left without regular monitoring.
Through an intuitive solution that works on any smartphone and 100% offline, the pest monitor can go to the field and collect the targets found, and is able to register photos and text notes to assess the phenological phase of the culture. When the operation is finished, the monitor obtains the results in the field, offline.
After synchronizing the data, decision-makers already has a general list of targets in that field, enabling them to identify the most infested areas and assess how their farms are monitoring and prioritizing the most critical ones, to organize the spraying routine for the next day.
Farmbox is also a resource that creates flexibility in the field and controls attraction traps to capture boll weevil. Their spatial distribution is georeferenced, so after collection with the Farmbox app, it is possible to understand the infestation and compile all traps at once. This strategy will help producers identify where the weevils are entering the crop and also understand the future population of insects, therefore, enabling them to carry out their phytosanitary planning for the harvest.
Along with this, producers can access the history of a plot and control stock and crop costs, even while being in the field without access to the internet, further streamlining their decision-making.
What results can be obtained with this tool?
Cantarelli: More generally, the outcomes of the adoption of digital agricultural management tools can be tangible and intangible. The latter deals with increasing the capacities of professionals working on farms.
In the case of Farmbox, intangible results can be perceived in terms of increased team organization, ease of understanding of the agronomic situation, the security to make decisions, time efficiency in both capturing and accessing information, the evolution of professionals, motivating the team to carry out their work using a modern tool, and enhancing planning capacity and quality.
The tangible benefits for farmers adopting Farmbox can be proven in a specific way on each farm, as agriculture is extremely dynamic. However, it is possible to highlight some examples. In general, considering that losses caused by pests is around 30%, a tool that allows the farmer to reduce that loss by 10% by increasing flexibility and security when taking action can prevent 3% of productivity losses.
In addition, with the security of the current infestation scenario, there are cases where producers can wait to enter important applications and, at the end of the harvest, can save at least one application of insecticide.
How do you evaluate the performance of the company, and what news are expected for the coming period?
Cantarelli: Our platform has been following a plan that delivers agronomic and operational management capacity to many producers and consultants. Today, with almost 2 million active hectares and a history of obtaining useful information, we are further expanding and deepening Farmbox's agronomic intelligence, based on our insights and real data from the operation of each plot. In addition, we have gambled on integrations with other platforms, because producers need to take advantage of technology, whether in terms of imaging, climate, machinery, purchases, field sensors, and so on.
The future of Farmbox, in addition to intelligence and integration, also involves the democratization of digital agriculture within an environment that fosters automation and communication between consultants and large, medium and small producers, so everyone can improve results and increase levels of sustainability in every planted hectare.
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