Bernardo Arnaud is an agricultural entrepreneur, rooted in Brazil, where agricultural technology has been developing intensely. With a passion for agricultural innovation and a vision to improve the livelihood and financial situation of farmers in general, he has founded many agriculture-related companies and has been committed to the development of new products, extensive cooperation and business expansion on a global scale. In my conversations with Bernardo, I always felt that he was passionate about what he is doing.
You are running a number of agriculture-related companies. Can you tell us about how you started your business and the profile of the companies you now manage?
I started my agribusiness group of companies looking for ways to make agriculture and dairy livestock breeding more efficient, be it in terms of systemic views or through the introduction and replacement of petrochemical fertilizers by biological inputs to crops and feedstock. We have small teams in each of the companies and they research, develop and commercialize sustainable and energy-efficient solutions for crop nutrition, food loss and waste, biological control and decentralized inputs production. I owe where we are today not only to my vision, but to the teams and shareholders who believed in those visions and came along to make agriculture and dairy livestock breeding more sustainable, productive, nutritious and cruelty-free.
What made you have great passion about agriculture? From the perspective of an entrepreneur, what do you see in agriculture that excites you and drives you forward?
Agriculture is one of the oldest economical activities that people can engage, be it in their garden or in a giant farm property, and begins feeding themselves and their families, after that progressing for commercial oriented crops or orchards. But our vision of agriculture that we bring from our schools is that this activity is somehow linked to poverty and to low skills set. I started to question myself why many farmers around the world were not in good financial standing and I have never accepted that most farmers, or workers in big farming properties would be either undernourished or in bad financial situation, in most of the world. That needs to be changed.
As I have a keen interest for always knowing more about Nature and its systems, I think this led me to a tipping point in my attitude towards agriculture: in 2014, I started to be very concerned with the way that crop management was being done in most of the producer and exporting countries, with lots of toxic substances contributing to soil erosion, air and water pollution and progressive reduction of nutrient content in the same vegetables, grains and fruits that our grandparents used to eat, leading to public health problems in many regions.
Novatero founders (from right to left): Bernardo Arnaud, Yuri Maggi, Ricardo Stolf, André Hoffmann and Rodrigo Moreira
Brazil is at the forefront of the practice of new agricultural technologies. In your opinion, what are the new trends in Brazil's agricultural development? What businesses do you have that fit well with these trends?
Brazil has leaped from a net importer of food some decades ago to one of the biggest exporters in the world. The country is first and second place in a number of products like coffee, orange juice, beef, sugar, soybeans, and has been developing a bold agriculture and food technology setting with local companies through the leading role of EMBRAPA, the national agriculture research company. New trends in the Brazilian scenario have emphasis in biological inputs development and use, food loss prevention, but still mainly the increase in productivity.
Companies that I cofounded or (joined after foundation) like Novatero BioAg, StarkSat, Inocular Biotecnologia, AMD Agro, Biorosam, GadoChain, and a few others, in Brazil, Europe and Africa, all have a special fit in those scenarios.
Some companies that Bernardo Arnaud co-founded or joined after foundation
Any of the companies you mentioned above has seed treatment business? Could you tell us more about them? What are the main products? What are the main markets for these products?
Our agro group does not have a seed treatment company yet, but it does importation, distribution, research and development of seed dressing biological and oligomineral products, applied in seed treatment. We have partners from around the world like GroundWork BioAg in Israel, Tracegrow in Finland, and other innovative companies in Europe, Asia and Africa.
The main products of our portfolio currently are the Rootella arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi from Groundwork BioAg, for higher productivity, climate resilience in drought areas and improvement of carbon and microbiota levels in the soil and root zone; Tracegrow´s ZMGROW, which is a liquid fertilizer containing zinc and manganese from recycled batteries, used for improved plant nutrition via foliar application; BradyMaster, which is Bradyrizhobium elkanii by Inocular Biotecnologia for biological nitrogen fixation; and Biorosam´s SC5, based on Pseudomonas thivervalensis bacteria, for soil conditioning, crop resistance against extended drought periods and productivity increase in most crops.
StarkSat supports data analysis from part of our clients who use these products in their crops, in order to show without a doubt how they enhance and improve not only crop and soil health, stability and performance, but also how much these products save farmers on their mineral and petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides costs.
Please tell us more about Novatero.
After travelling to different parts of the world, I identified in Israel the best producer of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, GroundWork BioAg. In 2016, we started the validations in Brazilian territory, with different types of soil, in more technological farms and others that had less precision in the management area, seeking to expand the range of seed treatments that the Brazilian farmer could have access to. In the field, the tests were carried out with soybean, corn and wheat crops, and in greenhouses we did with beans, barley, rice and oats.
The main objective in the first two years was to demonstrate that our product had the potential to give a very big boost not only to crop productivity, but also to make it possible to decrease the use of fertilizers.
We have been operating since 2016, formal foundation in June 2017, with full product registration in April 2018. Our headquarters are in Joinville -SC, and we built our distribution network throughout Brazil.
Plant not inoculated (top) and Plant inoculated (bottom)
What are arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and what are they used for? How is this product applied?
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are fungi that create a symbiosis between the plant root and the soil. Rootella BR and Rootella BR ULTRA increase the plant's resistance against water and climatic stresses, as it makes the plant's root stronger and longer, allowing greater access to water and micronutrients retained in the soil.
The application of the product in these crops is done by normal encapsulation of the seed. Many producers already have those concrete mixers or helical encapsulators. If the producer does not have the equipment, at least one of our distributors per state does. With that, it manages to make several hectares per hour. It is necessary to ″glue″ the product to the seed, something that you can check visually. We recommend that the process be accompanied by an agronomist.
What about the soil conditioner SC5?
SC5 is a microbiological soil conditioner, with active ingredient composed 100% by Pseudomonas thivervalensis SC5, an exclusive microorganism of BIOROSAM, with unique characteristics, multiple functionalities and naturally adapted to different stress conditions present in the soil, with high capacity and speed of colonization of tissues and the rhizospheric environment of plants.
Reasons to use SC5:
● Stimulates the production of plant growth-promoting hormones (AIA/ Gybberellins/ Cytokinins/...)
● Regulates ethylene levels in the plant (reduces senescence)
● It acts in the availability of N, P, Fe, S and Zn in the soil, improving plant growth
☆ average increments of up to 23.1% in N levels
☆ average increments of up to 16.1% in P levels
● Increases soil enzyme activity
● Promotes greater growth of the root system, improving plant rooting
● It acts strongly in reducing water and saline stress in plants
● Activates the natural defense system of plants against phytopathogens (pests and diseases)
Wheat results in Brazil: with Rootella BR 21.63% more productive than without. With: 52.3 bags/ hectare and without: 43 bags/ hectare.
Field results of using SC5
What are the market prospects for seed treatment in the world and in Brazil? What market opportunities do you see in the future?
In a market dominated by North America and Europe, with projections of reaching 9.8 billion USD in 2027, and a CAGR of 9.2%, I see an immense opportunity in the Brazilian market. Industrial seed treatment is less labor intensive than spraying and has efficiency gains that cannot be ignored. The cluster arrangement in the majority of Brazil´s farmers associations, naturally demands local industrial seed treatment centers, and on-farm mini-plants.
The seed treatment factor can be a differentiating service to be offered by agro-inputs resellers, like insecticides and fungicides, and for seed companies, with a special ″more resistant seed line″ or a ″higher germination rate seed line″, among many possible outcomes.
What are your expectations for the group’s future development and growth?
My expectations are that we manage to launch 1-2 products per year, with supplementary functionalities to our existing portfolio and that we make small companies acquisitions in key countries for our strategy, especially in Africa and Southern Europe. We are announcing two major partnerships in Q3 and Q4 this year, in industrial seed treatment technology and in biocontrol product development in Latin America, Europe and Africa. Those technologies have been tested for a few years with very good results in the field, and will make a huge difference in less pollution, higher germination rates and healthier crops for farmers around the world. We are going to install factories in Spain, Ghana, Austria, Paraguay and Eastern Africa in the next 5 years and reach 10 million hectares treated with our products per year by 2027.
Besides this strategy, we are giving more emphasis now in engaging the combat of food loss and waste, through online and offline technologies, and we are building an ecosystem for seeds improvement, qualification, classification, purchase and sale that will be launched in 2023. So, as you can see Christina, we have a lot of work to do.
This article was initially published in AgroPages' '2022 Seed Treatment Special' magazine.