Brazil is an agricultural powerhouse. The country produces enough food to feed 800-900 million people and 14% of the country’s GDP is directly linked to the farming industry.

While large, industrial farms are probably what you think of when it comes to Brazilian agriculture, there is another face to this vital sector. Brazil is also home to more than 4 million smallholder and family farms. These smaller farms do not have the same support systems or access to technology and agronomic advice as the larger farms do. Because they have less purchasing power, they are also not prioritized as customers by multinational input or technology companies.

What if smallholder and family farms could gain power and relevance by connecting and collaborating with each other? What if agricultural knowledge and technology could be democratized by leveraging digital communities? Meet IZagro.

 

Connecting farmers creates new opportunities

Being a farmer is a demanding business. Just one mistake can mean that the entire harvest – and their entire income – is lost. It can be a lonely life too, with farmers not seeing many people beyond those working with them. Facing these intense pressures day in and day out, many farmers tend to resist change and operate the way they have always done – either because they don’t have access to new people bringing better ideas and technologies, or because they want to de-risk decisions about their business and operations as much as possible.

Thankfully, digital connectivity is changing everything! 85% of smallholder farmers in Brazil have access to the internet and with that, they are able to connect to an exciting world of opportunities to improve their productivity, sustainability, and profitability. 

IZagro has built an app that connects smallholder farmers with each other and to agronomists, offering free agronomic information about 15 main crops, including their pests and diseases. Their app has taken off to be one of the leading digital tech solutions in Brazil with more than 60,000 users and counting. 🚀

IZagro is also collaborating with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation Embrapa, a state-owned research corporation affiliated with the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture. Together, they are rephrasing a lot of the technical and hard-to-understand scientific papers and turning them into easily-digestible content for farmers to quickly take in what they need to know and act accordingly. 

A digital marketplace is just the beginning

With the democratization of knowledge and technological access on top of their mind, IZagro is intent on keeping their app and platform completely free for farmers, so they have devised another way to make money. Farmers can use IZagro to buy agricultural inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds – and for every transaction made, IZagro gets a cut.

Farmers now use the platform to get informed about the newest inputs and can also get a quote to purchase them directly from IZagro. IZagro will also link farmers to others in the region who want to purchase the same products – this way they can buy in bulk and get better overall prices. Currently, 1800 inputs are available on the app, all of which focus on furthering sustainable and regenerative farming practices. 

Transitioning to regenerative agriculture is the goal

The inputs currently available on the IZagro app are all there to help farmers transition to restorative farming methods in a profitable way. Their use is supported by advice on what to use, when. In the past, this agronomic advice was delivered by extension agents or input providers. But now, robust, independent advice is provided digitally, allowing it to reach exponentially more farmers, more quickly. 

The agronomists who created IZagro saw firsthand how beneficial regenerative agriculture can be and are keen on sharing this knowledge to help other farmers work their land in a way that keeps it healthy for decades to come. They provide knowledge and information about regenerative farming practices and how to measure outcomes that can reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycles.

It takes some time and new skills to make the transition from monocropping to regenerative agriculture, but IZagro has found that farmers are open to these approaches and curious to try it. Once they see it actually works, they continue this way of farming and support each other to accelerate their individual efforts. The IZAgro team is also helping them find new market opportunities by connecting farmers to opportunities like soil carbon and premium commodity markets.

Community is what fuels the team, and their business

Murilo, Henrique and the rest of the founding team at IZagro are all agronomists with close connections to farming. Growing up, they saw firsthand the issues that smallholder farmers face and how they impacted their parents and grandparents lives. That drove them to want to make a difference by combining their digital savviness with practical on-the-ground applications.

One of the newer team members, Matheus, attended the 2018 TFF Summit, which took place in Brazil. There, he was inspired by the global community TFF brought together, and in this “family”, he met the others from the IZAgro team. He decided to quit his job so that he could join IZagro, and has been driving their growth ever since. 

When I connected with Murilo and understood what IZagro was doing, I knew that more people have the same dreams as me, and that we could transform our dreams in a huge positive impact for farmers and make agriculture more efficient. It is gratifying to be part of this journey, the “boots on the ground” knowledge, with the scalability of digital tools, creating expressive results on the field” – Matheus Calheiros.

What’s next?

The team has big ambitions both for Brazil and beyond. While some of the functions, like the purchasing of inputs and recommendations for regenerative agricultural practices, will always be local, the knowledge is there to be spread and is applicable for farmers around the world. Already, people from neighboring countries have downloaded the app and are accessing the information and joining the community. So, as a next step, the team hopes to take what they do across South America, and eventually around the world.

TFF is working with IZagro to help them with their business model, reach more farmers and continue impacting the future of this industry. TFF is also helping the team with their branding strategy and more. 

If you want to find out more about IZagro, partner with them, or meet the team, please reach out to marie@thoughtforfood.org.

Hear them pitch at the TFF Summit!

LIVE on October 2nd