Brazil is the second-largest poultry producer in the world behind the US, and the top poultry exporter. Brazilian production is only expected to increase in the coming years due to heightened demand from China.
But the industry is lagging behind when it comes to adopting technology to improve operations, according to Renato Ramalho, executive partner and CEO of São Paulo-based VC firm KPTL.
“Agrisolus is the first company providing a complete solution to the entire supply chain – from the slaughterhouse to the poultry farms,” Ramalho told AFN. “There are no other startups here providing this kind of technology.”
KPTL has invested an undisclosed amount in Agrisolus, which aims to connect poultry producers with the processing plant. The startup uses hardware and software in a proprietary system, with over 20 different types of sensors measuring data points like weight, feed consumption, water consumption, humidity, and carbon dioxide. Information is then transmitted to a processing plant to calculate production data and project future scenarios.
Today, roughly 200 poultry farms throughout Brazil are using the technology. One of Agrisolus’ clients is Brazil’s fourth-largest poultry producing company, GT Foods, while the largest egg producer in South America, Mantiqueira, also uses the platform for its 11.5 million hens.
“We have around 4,500 slaughterhouses here in Brazil, almost 130,000 poultry farms. So, it’s a huge, huge market,” Ramalho said. “And it is managed in a more traditional way, not as a tech supply chain. That is completely absurd.”
São Paulo-based Agrisolus is the tenth agrifoodtech investment in KPTL’s portfolio, which now totals around 60 companies.
Proving the value proposition
The Brazilian poultry industry is structured similarly to that in the US, where private farmers contract with major integrators to provide the service of growing out birds. This raises questions about who should bear the cost of technology; the farmer owns the land and the houses in which the birds are grown, but the integrator owns everything else.
“It makes total sense that the processor pays for the technology instead of the poultry farmers. The company is the one sending the birds, nutrition, and everything they need, and then is asking to get information back 24 hours a day,” Ramalho argued.
For the most part, poultry farmers do not seem to mind adopting the technology, he added.
“They are now understanding that if they don’t use technology, they will be left behind. They know they need to use technology to keep their business efficient and healthy.”
Still, education is one of the challenges that Ramalho lists for Agrisolus – both in terms of the farmers, and the processing plants. Sometimes tech’s value proposition is not always obvious to a more traditionally run supply chain, he suggested.
Agrisolus’ sales pitch is that it offers logistical advantages. Instead of having to make periodic visits to growers’ operations throughout the country, integrators can get real-time insight from Agrisolus without leaving the office.
The data also helps farmers detect and fight disease faster, which is one of the biggest challenges for large-scale confined poultry production.
As the startup expands, Ramalho sees ‘people power’ being a potential limiting factor.
“It’s a small company with amazing traction. But Brazil is quite big,” he said. “Geographically we have huge challenges where technology helps, but it is not enough. So human capital is important.”
Poultry tech is growing
It’s generally agreed that the livestock industry has been slower to adopt technology compared to row crop farming and other segments of agriculture. But more and more livestock tech startups are popping up, including several poultry-focused innovations.
France’s Tibot Technologies has developed a robot that roams poultry houses and encourages the birds to exercise, while in the US, ALS-S is offering technology that cuts down on antibiotics in chick vaccinations. Israel’s Soos is using sound waves to alter the sex of chicken embryos still in the egg, in an effort to quell the practice of slaughtering male chicks.