Threatened by deforestation, mining and cattle raising, forest preservation is gaining momentum with industry 4.0. The new project aims to foster businesses that protect life and distribute profits among local inhabitants.
Among native fruit trees and surrounded by the Amazon rainforest, Selma Ferreira awaits a major transformation in the dynamics of the work she does with 40 other women in the Share – Association of Rural Women Workers of Belterra, municipality in Pará. They collect and transform cupuaçu seeds – which used to go to waste – into a popular product: a type of chocolate.
The long-awaited change will come in the form of a technology. A bespoke factory will be installed in early 2022 so that they can earn more from what they carefully remove from the forest.
“The researchers have already explained the project to us. We are very excited, we want to develop a quality product, present a good sale, take our chocolate for Brazil, for the world”, says Ferreira. For now, the delicacy is only provided to fairs in the region.
This environment created by the efforts of these women, moved by the slogan “from the garbage to the table” and who use all parts of native plants, is like a perfect laboratory to test the experience of the scientists at the head of the project. Amazónia 4.0.
The initiative proposes an alternative path to the one underway in the region, currently paved by the deforestation, mining and low productivity livestock. The project wants to prove that there are business models that can preserve the ecosystem with the greatest biodiversity in the world, avoid greenhouse gas emissions caused by cutting and burning forests, and distribute to wealth generated among forest dwellers.
“Our goal is to help add value to the raw material that comes from the forest, from the work of the locals, so that this economy of the standing forest is superior to the economy of the tractor, of destruction”, explains Ismael Nobre, scientific director of the Amazon 4.0.
High technology for forest dwellers
The mobile factory awaited by Ferreira is almost ready, more than 3,000 kilometers from the cupuaçu and cocoa trees from which she takes the fruits. In São José dos Campos, São Paulo, the team of researchers makes the final adjustments before transporting them to the Amazon community.
Anchored in the concept of industry 4.0, in which machines are created with technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and cloud computing, the project thinks about models for encourage the bioeconomy and reward traditional knowledge.
“The technologies of the fourth Industrial Revolution make it possible, for the first time, to think about an economy of added value made with and by local actors”, comments Nobre.
The idea is that the entire process, from collection in the forest to final production, remains in the hands of the communities, as well as the profit. Studies on different chains carried out by researchers show that raw materials leave the Amazon by low value and, when they reach some markets, they become expensive items, such as cosmetics sold abroad that contain açaí or cupuaçu itself in its composition.
Of all the projects in the development phase, called Creative Laboratories of the Amazon, the one involving cocoa and cupuaçu is the most advanced. Initially, it will have a small innovative factory, to demonstrate the model, powered by solar energy. An automatic traceability system, with blockchain technology, will allow the consumer to see all the information about the origin of the future chocolate.
“We are going to train the communities in this initial phase. The fully automated system will also allow the final production result to be compatible with international markets”, adds Nobre.
Technology to monitor destruction
It was the use of technology that allowed the pace of destruction of the world’s largest rainforest to be monitored on a daily basis. In Belterra, for example, a city where the women of the association who will benefit from one of the Amazon 4.0 projects work, the transformation of native forest areas into soy cultivation fields caused a historic increase in temperature, as shown by a recent study published by Embrapa Amazônia Oriental.
As full-time watchful eyes, the satellites capture data and images of logging and allow for the calculation of the destroyed area. Carlos Souza Jr., a researcher at the Amazon Institute of Man and Environment (Imazon), was one of those who helped to create ways to observe the selective logging of commercial value wood in the green immensity.
“The clear cut, when all the forest is removed, is easy to be identified in the satellite images. The cut made for logging does not completely remove the original covering, and we we help create an algorithm to make this detection”, details Souza Jr. to DW.
Innovation was essential for an unprecedented conclusion: 4,640 square kilometers from the Amazon disappeared exclusively because of logging between August 2019 and July 2020. This area adds to that detected by INPE as completely deforested and which, in the same period, was 10,861 square kilometers.
“All this remote sensing technology and the ability to process data on a large scale is part of the solution to save the Amazon. We need to have good diagnoses, understand what’s going on. In this, Brazil is well served”, says Souza Jr., who coordinates the Simex Network (System for Monitoring Logging), composed of IMAZON, the Institute for Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Amazon (IDESAM), Institute for Management and Certification Forestry and Agriculture (IMAFLORA) and Centro de Vida Institute (ICV).
Of the nine states analyzed, the state of Mato Grosso accounted for 50.8% of the total logged wood, followed by Amazonas (15.3%), Rondônia (15%) and Pará (10.8%).
It is still difficult to know the exact rate of illegality, the investigator details. For this, it is necessary cross the information obtained by the satellite with the authorizations granted – and this is only possible in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará.
more than technology
But technology alone is not enough: it is necessary to know how to use all this information produced with its help. “To maintain the Amazon, we need advances in the judicial sphere, with application of fines and liability“, comments Souza Jr.
Selma Ferreira defends the forest through the collection of native fruits and chocolate recipes created with the help of her daughters. Despite his enthusiasm, he also doesn’t believe that technology alone will do all the work.
“the forest means life, not only for us who live from it, but for everyone. Only when everyone understands this will the Amazon be safe”, he says, about the future he wants for the forest, which has a day in the national calendar to mark its importance, celebrated on September 5th.