Murilo Martins F. Bettarello, from Franca in the state of So Paulo in Brazil, has been awarded the inaugural 2017 Nuffield International Scholarship supported by Nufarm Indstria Qumica e Farmacutica.
Murilo was selected from a field of excellent of Brazilian applicants to join a unique global network of farmers and agri-professionals who develop and disseminate practical research on topics of critical industry importance.
Murilo will study farming and technology, with emphasis on how digital agriculture and internet can help spread and deliver agricultural knowledge to farmers around the world.
Murilo is an agronomist, and a consultant and founding partner of ViaVerde, a tropical agriculture consultancy that operates across Brazil and into other parts of South America. Murilo runs projects with NGOs, government and farmers that improve productivity, traceability and quality.
Murilo also is the CEO and founder of IZagro, a platform that uses mobile and internet technology to bundle knowledge and information for farmers in a cheap and smarter way. He sees IZagro as a key space for smaller farmers in particular to improve efficiencies and access to best practice knowledge.
"The nature of my business is to empower farmers to make better decisions with a solid information base," says Murilo.
"I've been working with cattle production in our family business since I was 13 years old, and working now as a consultant across Brazil and South America, I see the importance of empirical and practical information for on-farm decisions. Bringing this information together is the challenge, and many farmers do not have the skills or access to consolidated, independent information and instead opt for advice from distributors and resellers, which could have different objectives."
"With my scholarship, I will look for inspiration in different parts of the world and bring knowledge to create and adapt systems that use digital farming and internet technology to deliver more information in a simple way that benefits Brazilian farmers," he says.
Over the past 16 years, Murilo, together with the ViaVerde team, have trained 2.000 agronomy professionals with practical knowledge and skills to adopt best production practices and drive productivity gains with an emphasis on business sustainability. Within 6 months, IZagro has achieved more than 15.000 downloads, and with increasing popularity Murilo is enthusiastic about the potential of this start-up company to help farmers.
"I will research how technical assistance works in countries that have many small farmers like India, countries like Israel with intensive systems and high-technology, and to visit major agtech hubs like companies in Silicon Valley (USA)," he says.
"My main goal is make technical agronomic information simpler and more available so a wide range of farmers can make smarter decisions in the field."
Murilo graduated as an agronomic engineer at Universidade de So Paulo, and has post-graduate degree in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship, also at Universidade de So Paulo.
He relishes new technology and new ideas, and sees a huge potential for small farmers and families in Brazil to access relevant and independent information, and link with research and innovation centres such as universities and leading companies.
"I plan to adapt simple and affordable technological solutions that can be widespread amongst Brazilian producers, helping them to save resources and empower then to make better decisions," he says.
"I will work in partnership with multi-national companies and universities to develop ways to spread these technologies to small producers, and am interested in seeing how we can draw on our existing networks and extension infrastructure to include practical digital tools that support farmer decision-making."
To carry out his research, Murilo plans to travel to India, USA, Israel and Japan.
This scholarship is kindly supported by Nufarm Indstria Qumica e Farmacutica. Present in Brazil for 55 years, Nufarm offers innovative and competitive solutions to the rural producer. Founded in Melbourne, Australia, it operates in more than 100 countries, employs around 3,000 people and markets a portfolio of 228 high-tech active ingredients. In Brazil, Nufarm maintains a manufacturing unit in the state of Ceara, in addition to eight distribution centres located in the states of Bahia, Gois, Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso, Paran, So Paulo and Tocantins.