The European Union has invested in programs around the world to contribute to sustainable development. One of them is the Low Carbon Business Action in Brazil, which since 2015 supports the exchange between European and Brazilian small and medium enterprises for the development of solutions in sectors that contribute to a low carbon economy, and closes its cycle with almost 80 projects being implemented in Brazil. In 2020, the focus of the European bloc in the Americas will be circular economy, which will guide the main initiatives in the expansion of the program, which in addition to Brazil and Mexico, will be expanded to Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Canada.
Circular economy is a concept that has been gaining ground by proposing a business model more suitable for a world saturated with the exploitation of natural resources. It includes the reuse and recycling of products and materials, the minimization of waste generation and the use of renewable energy sources. Among the services that make up this model are the recovery of resources, products such as services, circular inputs, virtualization, sharing, energy recovery, industrial symbiosis and extension of product life.
The first country to create a law to promote circular economy was China in 2009. The European Union, in turn, created in 2015 a plan for the implementation of circular economy in its member countries. With this, each country has adopted specific national public policies for the transition to a circular economy. In Brazil, although there is no specific strategy for this model, there are some policies and programs that encourage circular policies and the intelligent and responsible use of resources, such as the National Solid Waste Policy (Política Nacional de Resíduos Sólidos - PNRS), the Program to Encourage Alternative Sources of Electric Energy (Programa de Incentivo às Fontes Alternativas de Energia Elétrica - Proinfa) and the National Policy on Water Resources (Política Nacional de Recursos Hídricos)
More than three quarters of Brazilian industries (76.4%) adopt some circular economy practice, according to a survey by the National Confederation of Industry (CNI) conducted in 2019 with the Brazilian industrial base. However, most industries do not know that the initiatives fit into the concept of a circular economy, which indicates that the model is still little disseminated among companies. The same study indicates that, despite adopting circularity practices, 70% of the members of companies surveyed have never even heard about the concept.
In Brazil, some initiatives have been taken to review processes and reuse materials. Low Carbon Business Action in Brazil supports projects that have the potential to benefit the production chain and generate social value, especially in the sector that transforms organic waste into energy, the so-called "waste to energy" sector. "Companies and industries are rethinking their business models towards processes that take advantage of the value of resources and transform them into new assets. By means of our program we have been able to help analyse the technical and financial viability of some truly innovative initiatives, which one day could be applied on a large scale in the country", says Mercedes Blázquez, LCBA leader.
With the greatest need to find sustainable forms of production in a world saturated by consumption and climate change, circular economy must become a fundamental concept. And Latin America will once again have the support of the European Union in a new cycle that will encourage the exchange of expertise with countries in the bloc that have innovative technologies for different sectors that contribute to a low carbon economy.
A sustainable agriculture solution that allows the production of several rotated crops, developed through a partnership among Brazilian companies GND and E4 Engenharia and European companies Endless and C-Astral, was implemented in the city of Vergara, Uruguay, in the second semester of 2019, with the participation of INIA (Instituto Nacional de Investigación Agropecuaria - Uruguay) and the Uruguayan ARAMIS SRL, and support from EMBRAPA - Brazilian Agricultural Research Company and ANII - National Agency for Innovation and Research (Agência Nacional de Inovação e Presquisa) The technology allows to provide a technical, financial and environmentally sustainable productive system for the production of rice in rotation with soybeans and rye grass in topside areas, where they were not previously considered for this rotation. This is achieved by using centre pivot irrigation instead of flooding techniques for rice, allowing the same yield per hectare and better product qualities, as well as the production of profitable rotations with other crops that would be unviable under flood conditions. The method has the advantage of lower operating costs per tonne of rice production and an addition of at least 30% in soy and, by allowing crop diversification, increases farmers' income while eradicating methane emissions and reducing water consumption by 50%. In addition, it allows renewable energy to be applied to reduce operating costs and the environmental footprint.
The success of GND's project experience in the South region of Brazil contributed to the internationalization of the solution. In the region, sustainable farming techniques have grown and are currently applied in an area of about 40,000 hectares. In the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the solution has shown that it is possible to obtain yields similar to those promoted by flooding techniques, with a cost reduction of about 30%. The goal of the project in Uruguay is to validate the commercial scale of the rice and soy production solution, ensuring high yields with low environmental impact. With this, a 20-hectare pivot has been installed in the locality, as well as a system that will allow predicting costs, yields and general economic results, in addition to the analysis of the necessary investments for cultivation.
The initiative will promote the reduction of methane emissions and CO2 capture by ensuring permanent coverage and the benefits of the cultivation method, as well as the use of renewable energies to improve the environmental footprint. The final goal is to obtain the eco-labelling process so that this system may also open the European Union market to production and financing. The internationalization of the solution occurs at a time when the Low Carbon Business Action program - of which GND precision agriculture projects are part - is also being expanded for implementation in 2020 in Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Canada, in addition to Brazil and Mexico.
Currently, GND has concluded a pilot of the technology implemented in the city of Bagé, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the largest rice and wheat producer in Brazil. The state's farmers achieve a rice grain production of about eight tons per hectare, producing 70% of all the rice consumed in Brazil, despite using less than 2% of the entire area used for grain production in the country, according to the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). In Brazil, two more pilots will be conducted to apply precision agriculture technology by means of centre pivot irrigation, one in Rio Grande do Sul and the other in Mato Grosso.