Energy Cane in GAF Talks: “Agriculture of the Future: New Ways of Technology”
Laís F. Thomaz* (Advanced Biofuels USA) The GAF Talk was held last month, in Sao Paulo, to present some agriculture trends and to promote a debate on the new technologies that will surely be on the agenda of the 2018 Global Agribusiness Forum.
Big Data was the main topic in several exhibits of representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), IBM, Microsoft and SAP.
Alan Bojanic, FAO representative in Brazil, stated the importance of the new wave of technology, which includes robotics and drones, artificial intelligence, mapping and remote sensing, optical sensors to supervise crops, telematics, and the interaction between real time information generated by robots and large data warehouses. He showed FAO Big Data platform Agrovoc (http://aims.fao.org) and mentioned that these tools can help to achieve precision crop management. He also said this kind of technology needs to have appropriate regulations, since there are some issues about who owns the Big Data information or how can it be used.
The use of Big Data on a shared platform could lead to greater transparency of the agricultural process. The idea is that this type of advanced technology can also be integrated with fact checking processes and thus prevent the sharing of false or even contradictory information over the Internet.
Energy Cane: the new frontier of biomass energy
Luis Rubio, President of Vignis, explained how energy cane is the new frontier of biomass energy. Rubio and Suzio Matsuoga were the founders of CanaVialis where they started energy cane development in 2003. Monsanto bought this company in 2008 and their former owners had to wait two years to be back in the energy cane market.
Rubio, Matsuoga and collaborators published a study in 2014 saying that “Unlike conventional sugar cane (Saccharum spp.), energy cane is a cane selected to have more fiber than sucrose in its composition” and it is expected to produce four times more bagasse than the regular sugarcane.
Rubio also stated that large-scale sugarcane planted in Brazil is the result of a series of breedings, but with the predominant characteristic of the species Saccharum officinarum, which contains high sugar and low fiber. Energy cane, however, had its breedings directed to take advantage of the descendants of Saccharum spontaneum, with high fiber content. The secret is the Rhizomes, which are “organs found in many grass families that help their competitiveness in the wild. They confer the ability to overcome abiotic stress conditions, like water deficit or freezing temperatures, mainly providing the ability to regrow after die back of the aerial parts of the plant caused by any stressing agent.” In other words, he said this is the new motor of the cane. Energy cane is also expected to bring 100% more value per hectare than the regular cane and that is why Rubio called it a disruptive technology.
Vignis has been harvesting energy cane for Odebrecht and Raízen Energia. It is important to mention that other companies, like GranBio, are using energy cane (http://www.granbio.com.br/en/conteudos/energy-cane/).
Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is also funding research on energy cane that have “identified genes associated with cell wall biosynthesis – the production of chemical compounds in sugarcane cells. The chemicals in question include lignin, which is important for the production of bioelectricity because of its high calorific value.” READ MORE http://agencia.fapesp.br/target_genes_for_breeding_of_energy_sugarcane_are_identified/23257/)
GAF TALK on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7pECoB4bJI
* Laís F. Thomaz is a Post-doctoral researcher at San Tiago Dantas Graduated Program promoted by Unesp/Unicamp/PUC-SP, São Paulo, Brazil and researcher at National Institute of Science and Technology for Studies on the United States (INCT-INEU) and frequent contributor to Advanced Biofuels USA.