Agroideal, an interactive land use planning map, is working to protect Brazilian forests and other ecosystems by identifying previously cleared lands ideal for soy productivity. The free online tool collects economic, social, and environmental data about certain geographic areas, then shares it with soy industry stakeholders. This allows producers and financial investors to make decisions with good economic opportunity that avoid deforestation. The updated version released in April now analyzes more than 73 percent of lands in Brazil, including the Amazon and Cerrado, or grassland, regions.
A coalition of 18 organizations and companies, including The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Bunge Limited, first launched Agroideal in 2017 in response to soy’s growing footprint in Latin America. Soybeans are Brazil’s number one export, valued at more than US$19 billion, and the country is on track to lead the world in soy exports in 2018. This growth is likely to continue as China shifts their soybean purchasing from the United States to Brazil in the wake of trade tensions. By providing support for decision-makers, Agroideal could help the soy industry continue to expand with minimal negative impact on the people of Brazil and their environment.
“Our hope is that it will benefit inhabitants of the region by contributing to more sustainable future development,” says Kirsten Ullman of TNC. Agroideal uses principles of territorial intelligence, a method of land use planning based on alternative practices like sustainable development, community governance, and collective intelligence for industry stakeholders. The tool is a new frontier for territorial intelligence, and countries like Brazil could benefit from this intersection of sustainability and expanding agribusiness.
The project still faces some challenges, however. “There are always issues around the availability of data,” says Ullman. “There is also the challenge of putting the systems on viable long-term financial footing…and since technology is always evolving, Agroideal will need to evolve along with it.”
But TNC and its collaborators remain optimistic and Agroideal is endorsed by the Associação Brasileira das Indústrias de Óleos Vegetais/Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries (ABIOVE) and the Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária/Brazilian Agriculture Research Corporation (EMBRAPA). Coverage will expand in 2019 to other regions of South America, including the soy industry in areas of Argentina, and the livestock industry in areas of Paraguay and the Amazon.