From Coffee, Carnivale and Caipirinha to Samba and Soybeans


Our third and final visit to the very large and diverse continent of the Americas was Brazil, to learn more about how a nation went from a food importer to one of the largest food exporters over a period of only a few decades.

Brazil has managed to evolve from a food insecure country in the early 70’s into one of the most important food producers and exporters in the world and this has been made possible by a coordinated and well-funded research program. To achieve this significant turnaround, all research efforts were consolidated with the establishment of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Cooperation (EMBRAPA) in 1973. It was founded under the premise to focus research and development on critical nutrient levels, optimum fertilizer sources and efficient application methods. EMBRAPA now consists of a network of 43 R&D centres spread across the country. Until the beginning of the 1970’s Brazil was troubled by low yields and all agricultural production was limited to the South and Southeast of the country. Identified as some of the biggest issues at the time were a lack of knowledge on tropical agriculture that would allow agriculture in the north and a lack of appropriate policies that would facilitate this. Brazil’s first agricultural (r)evolution therefore began with the tropicalisation of soybean (Glycine max) varieties and the development of liming and fertilisation technologies that transformed the poor acidic soil into fertile land. The second significant agricultural (r)evolution arrived with the introduction of the No-Tillage practices in the 1990s as well as better short-cycle soybean varieties that enabled double cropping of soybean and corn (Zea mays), significantly increasing the yield per hectare and year. Progress and change continued to emerge during the 2000’s where work focussed especially on the Cerrado region for the integration of crop, livestock and forestry systems (ICLF), heralded as the third agricultural (r)evolution for Brazil. Planting deep-rooted grasses such as Brachiaria species into soybean or corn fields, either as a cover crop or pasture for cattle during the dry/winter season, has become a viable option adopted successfully on 4.5 million ha throughout the region. The incorporation of these grasses has been shown to increases plant residue adn soil carbon content, provides soil protection during the dry season and contributes to a more biologically active environment. Further on the soils topic and what happens out of sight below the ground; biologicals and especially the introduction of Azospirillum as a plant growth promotor has further enhanced the yield and stress tolerance of the different broad acre crops, making it an interesting technique with considerable potential in other growing regions around the world. The long-standing research effort coordinated by EMBRAPA has resulted in highly efficient inoculants and a thriving inoculant industry that is supported through the strong adaptation of growers across the nation.

To see this in person and meet the people behind the significant ongoing efforts in Brazil, our tour started in Brasilia with a visit to EMBRAPA Cerrados, where we met with the teams of Dr. Fabio Bueno dos Reis Junior and Dr. Ieda Mendes, both passionate about sustainable farming practices. It was fabulous to see and understand the evolution the Cerrado has gone through and how the targeted innovations have resulted not only in yield increases, but also reduced soil erosion and increased carbon sequestration. The Cerrado research facility also holds a bacteria research collection of 1,200 strains of which 70 % alone are specific to soybean and common bean. This incredible repository holds future potential for further inoculant improvements, also beyond the borders of Brazil.

Considering the size of the biologicals market, we made sure to include visits to a range of remarkable and impressive inoculant companies including Total Biotecnologia (now Biotrop), SuperBac, Bayer (Cambé site) and Forquimica. We started in Curitiba where we were shown around the production facilities of Total Biotecnologia, which were established in 2005 and recently acquired by Aqua capital and merged with Biotrop. The multinational research team focuses on the production of an extensive range of biologicals with application for nitrogen fixation, stress resistance, silage stability, plant growth promotion and increased inoculant efficacy. The successful development of highly competitive products has allowed them to reach a 25% market share against a strong national and international competition. Further to its own brands, Total Biotecnologia produces inoculants for other companies in the Brazilian market. The R&D continues to focus on further improving effectiveness and product QC of their products, and they collaborate with EMBRAPA as well as other national and international partners to achieve these goals.

SUPERBAC has been developing and delivering high performance biotechnology solutions for the agriculture, sanitation, oil and gas and consumer goods segments for more than 20 years. They are continuously on the hunt for the true beneficial super-bug, and not to be mistaken for the nuisance that causes great concern for hospitals and doctors. With research and development centres located in Brazil, the United States, Colombia, and Singapore, SUPERBAC is consolidating its position as a leader in bio-innovation.

They produce fertilisers starting from chicken manure that get mixed with plant growth promoting bacteria to increase uptake and effective usage by the plant. In the oil and gas industry they focus on remediation of spillage by using bacteria mixtures, whereas the consumer goods segment is focusing on the removal of undesirable odours in sewerage pipes. There is an increased push into the agricultural market and hence their fermentation laboratory was moved to Londrina, next door to EMBRAPA Soja one of the world leaders of soy research, to focus on new products, optimisation of existing processes, scale-up testing and pilot production testing. SUPERBAC is using the latest in genomics and biochemistry to assist their R&D aims in agriculture, as well as undertaking ground-breaking research in mapping the Brazilian soil microbiome. To remain competitive in the global market, future expansions are planned with an aim to produce their own inoculants on site in Londrina.

One of the largest global players, Bayer has around 15,000 employees in the Latin American market which generated around A$9B in 2018. We were fortunate to visit their Cambé site neighbouring Londrina, where around 3.4 million doses of liquid inoculant are produced per year. Their research strongly focuses on biologicals, improving seed treatment, nodulation and nitrogen fixation. However, due to the merger with Monsanto the R&D directions are being consolidated and refocussed. The main goal for the Cambé site is to obtain ISO accreditation and increase production efficiency.

One of the established players in the region is Forquímica founded in 1985 with the main objective of bringing unique liquid inputs and fertilisers to the agricultural market. The success of their work and high economic growth rate together with the favourable market conditions in the following years allowed the diversification of their activities. Therefore, the Forus Group was created to unify the administration, storage and distribution of the manufactured produced by a range of associated companies including Forquímica, Dominus, Domclor, Stevia Natus, Laborfort, Ecoforest, Mademax, For brothers and Transagil. The Forquímica headquarters and production plant are located in the city of Cambira one hour drive south from Londrina, where they are currently establishing their own inoculant production facilities. This will allow them to offer a more personal approach for their customers, by combining the expertise in nutrition and protection into an optimised product portfolio that is designed to work synergistically without interference.

Tracing our route back to Londrina, we caught up with Prof Mariangela Hungria and her team from EMBRAPA Soybean in Londrina. As mentioned above, the contribution to the remarkable evolution of soy agribusiness in Brazil over the last few decades, places the Unit on top of the worldwide list of renowned institutions in the development of technologies for cultivation in tropical regions. Among the long list of its achievements are the development of cultivars adapted to low latitude regions, biological pest control, soil management and conservation techniques. Although mostly known for its work on soybean, the Unit is also responsible for research on sunflower farming for the entire national territory. In addition to this already extensive range of research areas, they are also deeply involved in wheat research developed in partnership with Embrapa Wheat (Passo Fundo – Rio Grande do Sul) and the Paraná Agronomic Institute – IAPAR (Londrina, Paraná). For the best possible integration of multi-crop farming systems, Embrapa Soybean also participates in research activities of other Units, such as Embrapa Maize and Sorghum (Sete Lagoas – Minas Gerais) and Embrapa Rice and Beans (Santo Antônio de Goiás – Goiás) to ensure the best possible outcomes and synergies between the institutional units as well as the crop systems.

The team of Prof Hungria has been at the forefront of inoculant development and improvement both with rhizobia and a range of plant growth promoting bacteria. The unit proudly houses the inoculant mother collection and services the inoculant industry with verified type strains, product QC, field trials, quarantine testing and new product registration.

Incidentally during our time in Londrina, the annual agriculture expo was in full swing showcasing the newest offerings, market trends and latest achievements in national and international agriculture. Given the nature of the expo, it provided us with a great opportunity to see some of the showcased animals and crops including the famous Brazilian coffee as well as engage with distributors servicing the Brazilian, South American and global agricultural market.

Our final stop lay along the way back to Rio de Janeiro in Seropédica where we met with Prof Jerri Zilli and his team at EMBRAPA Agrobiology. This unit is a decentralized Unit of EMBRAPA and linked to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA). It has approximately 150 employees, including researchers, analysts and technicians. It was interesting to learn from Jerry about their main research focus around biological nitrogen fixation, agroecology and organic production, microbiology and biological inputs, recovery of degraded areas utilising molecular genetics and biochemistry. Embrapa Agrobiology also houses the Johanna Döbereiner Biological Resources Center (CRB-JD) named after the Brazilian pioneer in early Azospirillum research and other beneficial soil bacteria, who was a key figure in the rise of Brazil as one of the world soybean farming leaders. The institute named in her honour today houses a wide collection of microorganism cultures, with about 3,700 bacteria and 50 arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. CRB-JD’s mission is to maintain the microbial germplasm bank with the ambition to continuously enriche its collection through the incorporation of new microorganisms, whether this be via discovery or exchange with other centres around the world. They continue Johanna Döbereiner’s legacy by developing new biological inputs and sharing the knowledge and insights through training and engagement in microbial taxonomy for academia and other professionals in related industries.

After a long but interesting and highly rewarding trip across many boarders, it was time to return home to Australia and start unravelling the many lose or tangled threads of information and sorting them into neat and manageable coils with which we can continue our own efforts to improve Australian farming.

We believe that there are great opportunities on both sides to learn and benefit from each other and we aim to support our local agriculture industry as well as work towards a sustainable farming future where biologicals will assist in nitrogen fertilisation worldwide.

We would like to sincerely thank the WA Department of Jobs Tourism Science and Innovation for the grant that made this trip possible.

For the next edition of this little mini-series, we plan to share our experience and thoughts from a trip across the ditch, visiting the land of Hobbits, lots and lots of birds of which some are named like fruit and of course a large number of sheep and cows grazing on pastures.

We wish everyone a relaxing and peaceful break and a great start into a hopefully successful 2020.

Best wishes from the MALDI-ID team

Are Peas the next best thing in the plant-based protein game?


The humble pea is literally jumping out of its shell to participate in the new groundswell to replace animal protein with plant protein, in many non-meat and non-dairy food options.

Agriculturalists are cottoning on to the fact that the humble pea may be the next best plant-based protein to hit the market.

If the pea doesn’t feature in your vegan burger or alternative milk latte, it soon might! In fact, it’s been reported by research firms that 757 new pea related foods hit the shelves last year!

The pea has long been part of the traditional meat and three veg meal or mum’s pea & ham soup. They practically showed up on every plate in the family home in the ’80s. However, this small player, particularly the yellow variety, is showing merit in competing with market leader’s soy, grains & corn. Taking the competition head-on peas can profess to be drought-tolerant & needing less water. As well as needing little fertilising due to its internal nitrate stores & therefore it is excellent for crop rotations. They also very rarely cause allergies, unlike some of their counterparts.

Canada has recently taken dairy foods off the recommended human food guidelines and is leading the US in its research into plant-based products. Significant investment has gone into a pea protein facility in Saskatchewan financed by an environmental activist and film director. The director of investments in the Saskatchewan Ministry of trade believes the trend is here to stay.

Canada, unlike the US, is not affected by tariffs, particularly from China.

Scientists in the US also have the pea on their radar, trying to discover the generic nature of pea protein concentration to make a great protein-packed pea.

So, where does the pea end up? Pea starch in noodles, pea protein in non-dairy ice creams & milk & pea fibre in all of the above and more. Feeding the world sustainably in the future will require a food revolution. This humble little legume may be a pioneer to sustain a healthy environment with healthy inhabitants and healthy food.

Not just a rabbit proof fence


If you are a farmer wanting to protect crops and stock from feral animals, you may be interested to read about Esperance’s new 660 km extension of the state barrier fence. This 11-million-dollar project is expected to take 2-3 years and will provide a 1.35 metres high protective fence.

Much of the funding has come from the state government budget with some federal support. Australian Wool Innovation has provided a Caterpillar fencing machine to ensure the terrain can be accessed.

Indigenous native title representatives have been in discussion with the State government around certain sections of the area that are subject to native title. It is also hoped that the construction of the fence will lead to employment opportunities, particularly amongst Indigenous rangers who will be given training to help complete this work.

As sheep and wool prices are booming it is seen as something that will be strongly supported by farmers, as wild dogs, rabbits, and emus have long been causing issues for livestock farmers in WA.


Source: The Farm Weekly






Women’s voices valued in leading agricultural decisions


Pictured: Senator Bridget McKenzie

Despite playing an integral role in the success of agricultural businesses, since farming began; female leaders in the industry have been overlooked. Nonetheless, women have made an impact behind the scenes and have rarely been recognised and noticed. The appointment of a female Federal Minister for Agriculture (Senator Bridget McKenzie), has gone some way towards amending this oversight, but more must be done.

Related businesses, including banks, agribusiness and other agencies and industry representative bodies, have joined Australian Community Media to make a new charge towards enabling females to become or be recognised as leaders in this field.

In addition, with the introduction of the Diversity in Agricultural Leadership Program, the National Farmers Federation strives to make change amongst the higher levels of management that have senior decision-makers of only one gender. Ms Simson says, “This situation doesn’t reflect real life and it blatantly ignores the great results that are achieved when men and women work together.

A select group of women who are leading this charge have recently met with the Federal Minister for Agriculture to scope out a way forward to seeing women take on senior roles and have a voice on relevant boards. This change in values will no doubt impact on the success of the agricultural and farming industries into the future. A change that has come late but not too late to be meaningful if these women are heard, paving the way for others.

MALDI-ID is proud to have a female director and scientist Sofie De Meyer leading the way through legume nodule research being used through a variety of cropping programs across the South West and beyond.

Source: The Farm Weekly

Farmers feeling the dry start to seeding.


Although winter might officially be here, this year’s rainfall has been significantly lower than in previous years. The last 6 months have had little to no substantial rainfall leading to almost no moisture in the soil which is leaving farmers concerned. Many across the state have been dry seeding and are not sure how they are going to get through the rest of the season with little rain due in sight — leaving many to create significant changes to the cropping program. According to Wagin Farmer Ben Ball “The way this season is panning out, we are in danger of burning a bit of money.

Mr Ball has had to change his 2019 program to abide by the dry climate. Previously he planned to put in 500 hectares of canola, but with no summer rain, there was no subsoil moisture to be able to put into the growth for the crop. He has had to make dramatic changes to his program as the lack of moisture has deterred him from cropping canola.

Traditionally lupins have always been a consistent part of the program with up to a third of their crop in lupin. Mr Ball says “Lupins don’t like a dry start, finish or frost. When they are good, they are excellent, but when they are poor, they are very poor.” This has led to the demise in hectares they have put in because of the variabilities being too high to crop. With farmers having to dry seed as a result of the lack of rainfall. There are plenty worried about the germination of their crops.

The Bureau of Metrology has predicted a warm and dry winter for the South-East. Which coincides with Grain Industry Association of Western Australia (GIWA) releasing reports saying the intended canola areas had decreased with only 1.4 million hectares of canola production planned. BOM Spokesmen Neil Bennett stated “We’ve had a very dry autumn, but we also had a very dry summer and late spring” “It’s been an exceptionally long dry period and that has meant it is unlike previous years where we have had rainfall in the summer season” “We didn’t see that this year”.

Perth posted its second-driest May on record as it collected 17.8mm. These conditions are certainly putting the pressure on farmers. Welcomed rainfall hit over the weekend which was seen across the Midwest and Wheatbelt including Southern Cross who scored 14.2mm, Cunderdin with 10.5mm and Dalwallinu with 10mm. Luke Rushby from the Wheatbelt who works for CBH said: “Any rain out this way is good for the farmers,”.

Source: Farm Weekly, Dry could see lots of money burnt – Travis King,
ABC, Perth weather shows the second-driest May on record as winter starts with a warm stretch – Irena Ceranic

MALDI-ID to take part in first WA agriculture accelerator program – HARVEST agtech accelerator program


We are proud to announce that MALDI-ID has been selected to be one of only nine young agricultural companies to be taking part in Western Australias first agricultural accelerator program – HARVEST agtech accelerator.

The official start of the program was fascilitated by the Hon Allanah MacTiernan MLC, Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food who is a strong supporter of our local agricultural industry.

Chosen from more than 45 applicants, we are the youngest company to have made it into the program. HARVEST aims to provide feedback from industry experts and provide guidance and support to link to local businesses and open to global markets.

Harvest is a structured accelerator program that will provide participants with frameworks and coaching to cultivate high potential ventures into high yielding SMEs, and help develop an export mindset and skillset.

Through regional innovation workshops and a high growth focused AgTech Accelerator, Harvest will build opportunities for WA’s AgTech sector at local, national and global levels.

For more information on the HARVEST program visit the website or watch the short video below.



Best wishes for a successful 2018


We  like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope that it will be a year be a productive year with favourable weather, great nodulation and good yields.

Best wishes for 2018 from the MALDI ID Team