By Leonardo Gottems, Correspondent in Brazil
Dario Maffei, Indigo’s Vice President of Global Markets Hedge, has a degree from Carlson School of Management and Birckbeck, University of London. Since the beginning of the year, he has been leading Indigo in Brazil as CEO in Brazil. He joined the company after a successful 16-year career at Cargill, where until recently he was coordinating the business area for Latin America. In this interview (originally published in Agropages), he shows Indigo’s current stage in Brazil and future projections for what is considered one of the most valuable startups in the world.
Journalist: What is Indigo’s current stage of operation in Brazil?
Darío Maffei: We arrived in Brazil a short time ago and started our commercial operation this year, with our first offer to the market. We brought the concept of seed treatment biotechnology, which was also our first product in the United States. This season we work only with soybeans, but in the next one we will offer treatment for corn and soon cotton, because these products are waiting for the release of the records. Biologically treated products evolve each year, after laboratory and field testing, the products we use in Brazil are still the first generation – in the US we are already in the third. With this initial product we have achieved a productivity increase of 4.5% compared to traditional treatments. With the product we tested for the next crop, this rate has grown to 7% to 9%. We also launched here our first product developed outside the United States. It is Indigo Ag Finance, a digital barter solution that is simpler than those previously available in the market, without bureaucracy, working quickly and easily. It’s all done digitally, credit approval is fast. Documents are sent digitally. Barter is already a widespread practice in Brazil, but we saw a great opportunity to improve the product itself and the process.
Journalist: What solutions are you offering in the country?
D.M.: Indigo Global works today with 12 different product lines. All will be available in Brazil in a maximum of two years. We believe in systemic change, so we want to correct imperfections along the entire agribusiness value chain, improving producer productivity and profitability, developing regenerative farming practices and, consequently, improving the quality of the end product offered to the consumer. We have Indigo Transport, which facilitates the logistics of vintage transportation, allowing the producer to negotiate online transportation from their warehouse to their destination. We have Indigo On-Farm Storage, which allows producers to segregate production to sell where they really get differentiated value. There is Indigo Marketplace, which helps the producer with a different offer to negotiate their product advantageously, directly with the buyer. It has Indigo Agronomic Services, which helps farmers apply new technologies on their farm and jointly develop new solutions from the independent agronomic consulting service. Among our recent proposals, the biggest highlight is the Terraton Initiative, to enable the sequestration of 1 trillion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere through regenerative and sustainable agricultural practices. It starts with Indigo Carbon, a carbon credit market that gives producers access to a new source of revenue, as Indigo will remunerate it for a ton of carbon sequestered. This revenue can be generated through simple and easily implemented measures, such as no-tillage, which is already widespread in Brazil. To support this initiative we also created the Terraton Challenge, which will reward technologies and innovations to accelerate carbon sequestration in agricultural soils. It’s a kind of global hackathon where researchers and startups can enter solutions in three critical areas: soil carbon sampling and measurement methods; technologies that accelerate soil carbon sequestration; and innovative financial offerings that reward producers for carbon capture and maintenance. Winning solutions can receive grants and contracts worth up to $ 3 million to implement their innovations on farms using Indigo technology.
Journalist: How do you rate the Brazilian market, acceptance and demand for Indigo solutions?
D.M.: For those who come from more traditional companies, like me, it is surprising the acceptance of Indigo proposals in Brazil, because they are very disruptive. I believe this is due to the profile of the Brazilian producer, who is very connected in innovation and technology. We estimate that in the 2019/2020 crop our treated seeds will be planted over 400 thousand hectares. Among customers who closed with us, almost 80% opted for our barter solution, Indigo Ag Finance. For a newcomer company is an impressive result.
Journalist: What difficulties or obstacles have you noticed? And how could the country move forward?
D.M.: Our difficulties are the same as those of a startup that is just starting. Building an innovation-based business from scratch goes far beyond having a good commercial offer and a good sales force, as traditional industry does. Make the Indigo brand known, and make the market understand our value proposition. Our business is not trivial, so I say market because it is necessary to have our value perceived by producers, trading partners, investors and especially good professionals who see Indigo not only as a job, but as the possibility of being a transformative agent of the market. agro. What makes me very happy is to realize how receptive people are to understanding our offer. We received very positive feedbacks from our customers and partners, which makes me conclude that we have more opportunities than difficulties. The advance of agriculture in Brazil involves the adoption of practices and technologies that allow a regenerative agriculture, which will bring a direct increase in productivity per hectare, thus changing the industry level.
Journalist: How do you project Indigo in the coming years in Brazil?
D.M.: We believe that the Brazilian market should become the largest outside the United States and may account for between 40% and 50% of the total. It is the country with the largest agricultural potential in the world, and producers are always looking for solutions that increase their profitability and allow access to new markets. Just where we fit in. So our projections are very optimistic – for Indigo and for the country.