Uruguayan Agtech Projects Open the Field to Sustainability

The digital transformation of agriculture is making headway in Uruguay with proposals that optimize the scale of production and its environmental impact.
Publication date: 26/02/2024

The intersection between the agricultural industry and technology, known as agrotechnology or agtech, has experienced accelerated growth and transformed agrarian production globally. In Uruguay, this industry is positioned at the convergence of two consolidated sectors of its productive matrix. It is giving birth to successful startups that contribute to increasing productivity, efficiency, and sustainability.

Their approaches range from early disease detection, automation in crop traceability, and precision planting using robots to specialization in machinery to provide transparency and objectivity in insurance appraisal.

Uruguay’s agtech industry had an outstanding presence at the first edition of Agro en Punta, Uruguay’s first agro-export fair, which took place in Punta del Este at the end of January. Through an open call, they were part of the AgroInnova stand, coordinated by IDB Lab and the National Agricultural Research Institute (INIA) and with the presence of the National Development Agency (ANDE), the National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII), Uruguay Innovation Hub, the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries with its AgTech table and Uruguay XXI.

This stand showcased innovative projects, launches, and presentations from the agribusiness sector. The participation of international startups underlined the significant attraction of Uruguay as a hub for regional expansion and a country conducive to testing and implementing small-scale solutions.

Projects presented at Agro en Punta:

metaBIX Biotech: pathogen predictive technology

metaBIX Biotech predicts and treats diseases in plants, animals (mainly poultry and pigs), and humans. Its integrated solution, with software that combines artificial intelligence and field data, anticipates the impact of viruses and bacteria and offers proactive strategies to prevent outbreaks.

Its focus is precision and speed, and its goal is to provide early warnings and effective control measures, significantly reducing the risk and impact of diseases on ecosystems and communities, CEO Laura Macció told Uruguay XXI.

The startup began its activities in 2022 and operates in Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay. Its goal this year will be to enter large animal production markets such as Brazil, India, and the United States.

“In 2023, we managed to quintuple the value of our intellectual property portfolio, having completed the third patent to be applied for in several countries," said Macció.

Ucrop.it: registration and traceability of sustainable crops

Ucrop.it is an Argentine digital platform that operates in Uruguay and is designed for producers and companies. It facilitates the registration and traceability of sustainable crops in a secure and confidential way with its blockchain technology. "By registering the history of crops on the platform, environmental indicators can be known, and the impact on the environment can be continuously improved. In turn, companies can achieve their sustainable goals and avoid greenwashing risks as well as position products in the market with the robustness of the Crop Story TM and the Q.R. code that shows everything collected during the production process," explain its creators.

Recently, ucrop.it was chosen by Google as a startup accelerator as part of the international startup accelerator program. It was also the winner in its category and in the overall competition at the THRIVE Climate Summit in California, USA. Ucrop.it's main objective is to transform sustainability into a simple and profitable process.

Ferrando & Asociados: A Bridge Between Two Worlds

It is a startup that acts as a bridge between technology and forestry companies. "We know the forestry business and the technology area, and our purpose is to unite these two parts," explained CEO Santiago Ferrando. The company provides technical advice in all areas, from nursery to harvest, and specializes in quality management with a focus on improving production processes.

At the same time, the company says, "We have the knowledge to extract valuable information from the data generated by the companies, allowing them to reach business-relevant conclusions."

Ferrando & Asociados began its trajectory in 2019 with the application of early disease detection systems in crops.

Seedorina: high-precision sowing robots

Seedorina, the Uruguayan developer of robots for the food production chain, specializes in high-precision agriculture. Its digital planters generate savings, provide information, and have a positive impact on the environment. Its constantly updated robots use programs that can be chosen and adjusted by the user, which reduces the preparation time for planting.

In addition, the use of technology allows users and managers to receive productivity reports at all times. Seedorina was selected to join the Project Nolux team dedicated to space agriculture to work in collaboration with NASA's Deep Food Space Challenge Phase 3 project. Its mission is to develop innovative food production technologies, for which it plans to create germination chambers for the safe and nutritious sustenance of people on exploration missions through design, engineering, and prototyping.

Smartway: telemetry and IoT for agriculture, transportation, construction, and forestry

It is a company dedicated to telemetry and Internet of Things projects for agriculture, transportation, construction, and forestry. It specializes in innovative and technological solutions for the control of machinery and vehicles based on communication with an onboard computer. The startup, which was born in 2010, specializes in the electronics that every machinery or vehicle includes nowadays and delves into the components of each system.

Smartway has expanded to Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil and works mainly for the insurance industry, providing transparency, precision, and objectivity in its expertise. Its objective is to enable increasingly sophisticated insurance products that are better adapted to the needs of the industry, whether at the level of producers, insurers, or reinsurers. Other companies exhibiting at the Agroinnova stand included Agri Technovation Uruguay, Biotoken, Briste, Deepagro, Nettra, NM IOT, S.L., and SOSE.

Companies and several institutions from Uruguay are working on the validation, dissemination, and promotion of agtech solutions that contribute to resilience to climate change.

For example, through an initiative co-financed by INIA and IDB Lab - the innovation and entrepreneurial capital arm of the Inter-American Development Bank Group - with the support of ANII, Converge was created, an innovation platform and space where innovators, producers, and specialists meet.