brazil-fish
Software as a Service (SaaS)

Brazil: Technology at the Tip of the Fishhook

Technological innovation is getting closer to the fields. With the mass adoption of broadband and Wi-Fi connections in the countryside of Brazil, in addition to the support offered by academic institutions, a new generation of entrepreneurs is coming at age. Their plan? To offer modern solutions to one of the oldest of agribusiness problems: the lack of efficient management tools.

 

The adoption of SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions is still a novelty in Brazil, even more so in the countryside. This is especially due to the unstable internet connection most of these areas suffer from. But that wasn’t enough to stop Adriano Romero, CEO and one of the founders of AgroInova, a company specialized in providing management solutions over the cloud to fish and shrimp farmers:

 

“We started our operations in great timing, when older generations were getting out of the business and younger managers were taking control of their rural enterprises”, says Romero.

 

This Q&A seeks to better understand one company amongst this new generation of agribusiness entrepreneurs.

 

 

Q: Where did the idea for AgroInova come from? 

AR: The idea came out during a meeting with my partner Dalton Skajki, who is a zootechnician. He knew I had chosen a career in software development, and he was working in aquaculture consulting at the time. At that meeting we realized there weren’t any management tools for that market segment yet, and we decided to create a project in order to pitch FAPESP (PIPE) for resources to build this software. After its approval, we started developing the applications, but we still didn’t have the financial strength to get into the market. It was then that we decided to negotiate a share in the company with angel investors José Rubens Tocci and José Eugênio Braga, both with large experience in the South-American software market.

 

Q: What were the biggest challenges that you encountered when first entering the Market and starting out AgroInova operations?

AR: I believe the greatest challenge was orchestrating all the company’s operations required in this model of business, such as sales, customer support, product development, etc. We had to find out during the initial phases the best practices for selling this novelty and for educating the end users on the use of the software.

 

We had to have our final users (the people who tend the fish crops) in mind the whole time. The usability is a key matter in this business segment. It’s really important that the software interface be as simple and straightforward as possible, regardless of the complexity of its operations.

 

We had great momentum for expansion with the mass introduction of tablet devices. Today the farm workers who tend the crops in the field still have a certain difficulty in dealing with conventional technologies such as desktop computers, but because of the popularization of tablets and handheld devices the adoption of our applications was readily accepted.

 

Q: How did you finance the startup costs? Did it take a long time for business start bearing fruit? 

AR: Our first platform was developed with resources from FAPESP (Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo) through the PIPE Program. When we had the concept for the product established and decided to redesign it as a Software as a Service application, we sought financial backing from angel investors who believed in our potential and capacity of growing this project to get where we are now.

 

Q: Do you see potential in the expansion of the usage of SaaS software on controlling other agricultural productions and crops? 

AR: When we first started our operations, we had the people involved in aquaculture in mind, especially those involved in fish and shrimp farming. Today, we are expanding to milk production and livestock management. We made a deal with Ourofino, a Brazilian company specializing in livestock health conservation, and we plan on distributing our products to its premium clients as means to improve customer loyalty. We are also developing our own line of aquaculture supplies, such as control equipment and supplements.

 

Q: How do you assess the importance of AgroInova and companies alike in developing the Brazilian aquaculture market?

AR: Instead of speaking of AgroInova’s importance, we prefer to talk about the importance of aquaculture management, which is essential for guaranteeing good results and as a means of measuring the agribusiness performance and help in the decision making process.

 

Q: What was the importance of the involvement of USP (University of São Paulo) in the success you attained in the initial phases of the Project? 

AR: The University of São Paulo had a key role in our startup phase through UNITEC, a business incubator of the institution that leveraged AgroInova in its initial planning and business development. This is also a great place to meet other like-minded entrepreneurs and share ideas and mutually support each other’s projects.

 

Q: What are the major setbacks and challenges to mass adoption of AgroInova Technologies in Brazil?

AR: Because our main products are cloud-based software, one of the key obstacles to our expansion is the quality of internet on the field, which has improved a lot lately, but is still a major setback.

 

The other problem is the lack of effective management of crop productions. Today the fish farmers have absolutely no management practices regarding how they conduct their business. When you introduce a new control technology like InovaPeixe you have to educate the farmers and their employees on its operation, which is still a big challenge, but has been improving greatly thanks to the mass adoption of handheld devices. You need to convince the farmers of the importance of strict management for better results and to adapt to new market exigencies.

 

Q: Do you see potential for expansion of AgroInova solutions to foreign markets?

AR: We do have plans of expanding operations to many foreign markets. We are currently working on partnerships with companies in Peru and Suriname. Both of them play a big role in aquaculture in Latin America.  We are also looking for new investors to accelerate our internal growth and also help us expand into foreign markets.

 

Q: What comes next?

AR: We are in search of new investment funds so we can expand our operations in a more aggressive way in the national Market. And also looking for new markets in Brazil and other countries. We are in a constant search for new concepts and product ideas to increase our offer of solutions that help small to big farmers better manage their production and improve the overall scenario in Brazil.

 

Talysson Kleinowski is a writer and international relations consultant with a keen interest in global affairs and disruptive technologies. You can get to know him at www.tklein.co

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Talysson Kleinowski

Talysson Kleinowski is a writer and international relations consultant with a keen interest in global affairs and disruptive technologies. You can get to know him at www.tklein.co

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