Bioeconomy is the path to sustainable development in the Amazon

Carlos Nobre, senior researcher at the Institute of Advanced Studies at USP, presents a project that proposes exploring the economic potential of biodiversity through new technologies

What is the economic potential of the standing Amazon rainforest? This value has not yet been measured, although there are some examples that provide an idea of the business opportunities at stake. The annual value of meat and soy production, for example, is R$ 604.00 per hectare; in the case of açaí, cocoa and nuts, this value reaches R$ 12.3 thousand. “One gram of venom from a surucucu snake is worth 4 thousand dollars, for example. But the potential is not in what we see; it’s in what we don’t yet know,” said scientist Carlos Nobre, in a lecture about the Amazon 4.0 project, at an event promoted by the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS) this Friday morning (25), in Rio of January. 

In the view of the senior researcher at USP's Institute for Advanced Studies, the economic and social exploration of the potential of an innovative bioeconomy based on biodiversity is the third way towards sustainable development in the Amazon. “The first way was protection. The Amazon is the tropical forest with the largest area and the most protected in the world (47% are protected areas). But is this enough? The advance of agriculture into the protected area shows that this is not the case”, stated Nobre. The second way, he explained, was to increase the efficiency of commodity production. “These are necessary conditions, but they are far from sufficient to ensure the sustainable development of the Amazon. So, just raising the alarm is not enough. Therefore, from 2016 onwards, we started looking at the economic potential of the Amazon”, he added.

The Amazônia 4.0 project plans to bring about the 4th industrial revolution for the Amazon, through new technologies, such as cyber-physical systems, Internet of Things, communication networks and others. “There is an urgent need to implement disruptive solutions. “The path is to combine the world of biological and biomimetic assets (learning how nature solved a problem) with advanced technologies in a virtuous circle,” said Nobre.

Present at the event, the president of CEBDS, Marina Grossi, reinforced the message that preserving and producing are not antagonistic verbs and added that some of the large companies with presence and operations in the Amazon have been presenting solutions and business models that are based on the bioeconomy. “This is a model that must prevail in a society that demands greater added value, including reliable traceability of this product”, said Marina.

Today, more than 245 species of Brazilian flora are already the basis of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products and at least 36 native botanical species are registered as herbal medicines. Around 80 families and 469 species of plants are cultivated in agroforestry systems. In this context of great economic potential, in the scientist's view, what is missing is industrialization, but within a decentralized model. “The Legal Amazon has 4,438 locations. And modern technologies allow the development of decentralized industrial models”, he argued.

Currently, Amazônia 4.0 has three projects under development in the region. The Amazon Creative Laboratories operate in tents or floating platforms for innovative experimentation in Amazon communities, developing capabilities for inclusive socioeconomic transformation based on the Amazon's biodiversity. Local Capacity Development is carried out in Yanomami territory and focused on the cupuaçu and cocoa chain. In the Yanomami indigenous territory alone there are more than 400 varieties of cocoa. “There is a third project, which is Genomics, focused on the potential of genetic resources. It is a laboratory that has a portable sequencer and records blockchain. This has enormous economic potential,” said the scientist.

In the researcher's view, if it gains industrial scale, these business opportunities could transform Brazil into the world's leading bioeconomy power.

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