“Mitchell’s Takeaways From His First Time in Brazil”
Hey everybody, Mitchell writing to you here today! I wanted to share my experience and takeaways from my recent trip to Brazil, where we got to see a large portion of the country & meet with various different people & companies. Continuum Ag has been working closely with Carroll Family Farms, who invited us to attend an event that they were hosting in Brazil a few weeks ago. Dad [Brian Hora] heard I was going on the trip, so he asked if he could go with me and of course I said that sounds like an awesome idea seeing as neither of us have ever been to South America.
My takeaways boil down to my thoughts around their infrastructure, their soil health, and their opportunities…
We had always heard that the infrastructure, including roads, railroads, & transportation, in Brazil was really poor, and we got to see this first hand. For example, leaving Lucas do Rio Verde to travel back to Cuiaba to catch a flight was only supposed to take 4 hours, but ended up taking almost 7 hours due to bad, congested traffic. The roads are mostly two lane highways and are loaded with huge trucks carrying almost double the weight that semi’s in the U.S. haul. This caused for a lot of reckless driving and a lot of fairly treacherous terrain to go across. Also, with a lot of the heavy equipment, the roads were severely damaged in many places, with evidence of improvements to be made, but locals said that the road improvements was a 10 year project that was supposed to be completed years prior. However, we did see massive holding facilities for grain, really impressive systems being set up by private companies who are looking to make it easier on farmers who just want to get their crop to town. On farm storage is very limited, so storage in town is a must, the problem is, a lot of the farms are an hour drive if not more from town, so semi’s are needed and logistics is a major concern. If the Brazilians could finish their rail system, they could be a major powerhouse, really improving the logistics of getting their products to market. One new trend that we saw with logistics is the growth of ethanol when we visited the FS ethanol headquarters near Lucas do Rio Verde. This facility produces 140 Million gallons of ethanol per year, uses a lot of grain, and creates DDG’s that go back into the local livestock markets.
I was amazed at the lack of good soils. Going to Brazil, I really thought that their soil was going to be pretty decent, and I was surprised to see that their soils were really sandy, very degraded, overall lacking much for soil health at all. We did find one worm on our visit, but this was on a farm that was using cover crops, had livestock integrated with hog manure, and was no-till. This was an indicator to me that the soil health principles can absolutely work, we can regenerate their soils, but we have to maintain diverse living roots at all times because its consistently nearly 100 degrees every day out of the year. However, across much of Northern Brazil, they only get rain 6 months out of the year. We must capitalize on those rains, build up the soils organic matter, build up water infiltration capacity, and thus build up soil health slowly over time. Working with the customers we visited in Brazil, they are excited to continue pushing the adoption of more diverse cover crops. We discussed using compost tea and other biological products to help jumpstart the soil microbiome, however, living roots are of course what it ultimately takes to build soil health and continuously feed soil biology. The opportunity to build the soils is massive. I cannot believe how huge the agricultural landscape was in Brazil. Some of the fields we passed went on for more than 5 miles across one single field, just insane to see how huge their farms are and how expansive the opportunity is for improvement.
This leads me into my last point. The opportunities for agriculture, for farmers, and for rural communities in Brazil are immense. I’m excited to be a part of the story for bringing the soil health and carbon intensity message fueled by data to Brazil. I had the privelage of presenting to a room of nearly 100 farmers at an event in Bahia, Brazil where I shared some initiatives going on from our farm with our regenerative ag journey, some insights from a carbon pilot project we have going on in Brazil with a company called Boomitra, and I shared the opportunities coming down the pipeline with carbon intensity. The listeners in the room gave really great remarks back, it was a really interesting presentation where I was speaking in English, my customer from Brazil was translating for me in Portuguese, and we had our slides translated as well for those in the room. The farmers were really excited to hear and to learn the eagerness of the young ag community in Brazil, it was really inspiring. I’m excited to continue to work with folks in Brazil. I think as American farmers, we need to be thinking about the global economy more. We need to understand that the opportunities for expansion in Brazil are real, and we need to control what we can control here, which is our input costs, focusing on building value in our market with carbon intensity initiatives, and continue to drive local and domestic market expansion because the global market is going to continue to be competitive with the low cost of production coming out of Brazil.
Thanks to the folks that I met in Brazil, I’m looking forward to seeing you again! If you want to see some of my photos and other takeaways from our trip to Brazil, check out my personal social media pages.