Editor’s Note: This is the first in a new series aimed at highlighting interesting startup businesses in the food tech and agtech ecosystem globally that you might not have heard of.
Verde AgriTech, a fertilizer business operating in Brazil, recently launched a new business unit called Verde Marketplace, which it hopes will become the first B2B platform for farmers to offer sustainably-produced food on a large scale to interested corporate buyers.
The Marketplace aims to help farmers capture premium pricing for their crops grown under one or more of four credentials: Chloride Free, BioNutrient, CO2 Captured, and Organic.
The new online platform allows farmers to offer food to corporate buyers. The accredited farmer accesses the platform, registers which product it has available to sell, and waits for offers from interested parties. Meanwhile, the buyer will have a wide range of options and can filter the search according to product, location, date of availability, sellers, and other criteria.
“The vast majority of sales channels available to farmers value the product’s weight and appearance but neglect the true nutritional value of food or the consequences that the use of chemical substances can have on human health and soil. Our goal is to change this set of forces, to potentialize the business of farmers and resellers of sustainable products,” company president and CRO Larissa Albuquerque told AgFunderNews.
Verde AgriTech also aims to promotes sustainable and profitable agriculture through the development of its Cerrado Verde Project. Cerrado Verde, located in the heart of Brazil’s largest agricultural market, is the source of a potassium-rich deposit from which Verde AgriTech produces crop nutrition, crop protection, and soil improvement products. Its products aim to improve food quality through nearly 70 trace elements, while also improving the soil’s ability to recapture CO2.
Verde Marketplace is designed to help farmers that use products like this and sustainable agriculture practices to capture a premium price from buyers who want to source this type of food. Verde Marketplace will be open to certified producers regardless of whether they use Verde’s suite of plant nutrition products.
We spoke with Albuquerque to learn more about Verde AgriTech’s journey.
When did you launch the marketplace and what stage is it at?
Verde Marketplace was launched on the 7th of November. We currently have several farmers being certified by the company, so they can start offering their products. We have also been in contact with corporate growers that are keen to have access to this new source of crops.
What are the different crops categories offered through the marketplace?
Chloride Free: Farmers apply nearly 60 Million tonnes of chloride to Brazilian soils every year. All this chloride comes from a fertilizer called Potassium Chloride (KCl). Applying 1 pound of Potassium Chloride (KCl) to the soil is equivalent to applying 1 gallon of Clorox. This much Chloride brings numerous problems to the environment and our food.
Bionutrient: Some farmers only apply a handful of nutrients to their soils, typically those that are proven to increase yields. In the old days our food was healthier but, after decades of intensive agriculture, most soils are now depleted and lack all those nutrients that are so important to our health. By remineralizing the soils we can bring back the flavor and the goodness of food.
CO2 Captured: Agriculture is the cheapest and most efficient way to capture CO2. Fungi that live on the roots of plants play a fundamental role in this process. The use of KCl significantly decreases the presence of such important microorganism.
Organic: Organic agriculture is wonderful but crops grown following this credential tend to be pricier than crops grown following Chloride Free, BioNutrient or CO2 Captured credentials. Nevertheless, organics also have a place in our marketplace.
After registering, a technical team will contact the farmer to evaluate if the product offered meets one or more of the criteria and will provide a code/invitation to join the marketplace. The company interested in buying must also pre-register. After completing the form, an invitation code will be sent to the qualified buyer.
Who is your target customer(s)?
We target farmers interested in growing sustainable and nutrient-rich products.
Farmers’ advantages include acknowledgment for doing what is best for consumers and the environment, direct access to companies that understand how consumers value nutritious foods grown responsibly, and appreciation of nutrient-dense food.
We also target corporate buyers interested in selling more nutritious and sustainably grown food. Some of the buyers’ advantages include free direct access to the best farmers, a guarantee of origin, sustainability and quality, and greater ability to do what is best for consumers
What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
One of the hardest challenges was determining what credentials to use. Many aspects in modern agriculture deserve attention. We overcame this by market research. We talked to many consumers so we could idealize what credentials would be the best for our platform. Another difficult challenge was establishing the requirements for each credential. We hired many experts so we could establish them.
What’s your fundraising experience been like? Who are your investors?
Our strategic investor is a UK mining company called Verde AgriTech Plc. Verde is listed on the Toronto stock exchange and operates Brazil’s largest potash mine. Since launching we have been approached by interested investors and Verde Marketplace is considering bringing in new investors, in addition to Verde AgriTech Plc. We are open to interested investors contacting us.
How have your investors added value beyond capital? What do you look for in an investor?
Verde AgriTech was a phenomenal investor as it not only offered capital but also access to some of Brazil’s largest farmers. We are looking for investors who can also help us to access corporate buyers interested in more sustainably grown and more nutritious food.
Have you interacted with any agrifood corporates?
Yes, several. Some of the largest companies in Brazil and the world.
Describe the current state of agtech in Brazil and South America at large.
Brazil is an agriculture powerhouse, the world’s leading producer of orange juice, coffee and sugar and second in soybean, ethanol, and beef. The country is also one of the top five producers and exporters of cotton, pork, and cacao. When it comes to scientific and technological achievements, Brazil has EMBRAPA (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corp) the largest tropical agriculture research institute in the world that has been developing hundreds of innovations for Brazilian farmers being the most important one the transformation of Cerrado region, an unfarmable land to the world´s new breadbasket.
The agritech scene in Brazil is improving with new technological infrastructure, satellite imagery, precision agriculture, traceability, farm management software, inputs manufacturers (i.e. seeds, beneficial insects, microbes, fertilizers, and plant nutrition) and more. These improvements strengthen the activity in the country and increase the interest in investments in the sector.
Any advice for other startups out there?
First of all, you must always be observant of what is going on in the market. The idea for the marketplace came after noticing that producers who went through all the work to make their food sustainable and nutrient-rich, didn’t get the proper recognition nor value. You must have a focused and dedicated team. It isn’t easy to start a project from scratch, but with the proper staff and objective, it is possible. Know what the priorities are and what they aren’t. Launching the startup is just the first step. There will be problems that can be fixed with time.