Entrevista 02 – Inglês
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Agroforestry: worthwhile businesses for restoration

Learn about the operations of Belterra and Caaporã, startups created and incubated with support and investment from Fundo Vale, which are leveraging the expected impact strategy of the 2030 Voluntary Forest Commitment of its sponsor, Vale.


To meet the challenge of restoring and protecting 500,000 hectares of Brazilian jungle by 2030, it is necessary to join forces and jointly build models that will point the way forward with the ecosystem’s key agents. More than a challenge, this movement is a pact between Vale and society, aimed at generating positive social and environmental impacts, and it has been under way since 2019, led by Fundo Vale. This movement involves businesses that are aligned with market logic while yielding benefits for the environment, society and Vale.

The goal is to protect 400,000 hectares of forest and restore 100,000 hectares of degraded areas. This distinctive Voluntary Forest Commitment goes far beyond planting trees. There is also a clear intention, through a sustainable production model based on agroforestry systems and organic fruit production, to improve the economic and social conditions of the entire chain involved, from small producers on the front line to end consumers.
But how can we achieve such a large scale? Which companies would accept a challenge of this size? There wasn’t anything in the market prepared to deal with this demand. So, Fundo Vale embarked on a journey to strengthen the social and environmental impact business ecosystem, supporting the creation, incubation and development of two of the five agroforestry startups that currently make up the business portfolio created to meet the demands of this bold commitment. Thus, Belterra and Caaporã were born, and together with other initiatives, they implemented 1,053 hectares in 2020, providing a proof of concept for Fundo Vale’s social and environmental impact business thesis.
In this interview, we talk with Valmir Ortega, founding partner of Belterra Agroflorestas, and Luis Fernando Laranja, founding partner of Caaporã. We will find out a little more about how the two companies have been developing, aided by Fundo Vale’s support and investment, as well as their initial operations, the challenges posed by the pandemic, the importance of flexible investment and impact measurement.

Please comment on the importance of agroforestry systems in the context of large-scale positive social and environmental impact planning and Vale’s 2030 Voluntary Forest Commitment.

Valmir Ortega – Belterra is a company of rural partnerships. Our operating model is to establish links with producers to restore degraded areas and implement agroforestry. This solution was designed precisely because it combines a set of positive impacts encompassing environmental and social factors, biodiversity, soil and water protection and the formation of carbon inventories. In other words, there is a set of related environmental aspects providing and offering ecosystem services to society. There are productive agroforestry landscapes producing agricultural and forestry products, which manage to bring this mix of attributes to areas that were degraded.

Belterra is converting degraded pasture areas into agroforests, combining a series of benefits and positive social and environmental impacts while creating value for small and medium producers. In other words, the process contributes more technology, capital, investments and opportunities for marketing and commercial integration.

Belterra’s agroforestry systems will generate an estimated return of around 20% per year for the company. In total, 704 hectares were implemented by Belterra, contributing to the Voluntary Forest Commitment, between 2019 and 2020. We expect to reach 2,200 hectares of restored areas in 2021.

This year, more than 200 temporary workers engaged with our goal and we will in due course have approximately 1,500 hectares of cocoa crops, for example. We estimate that every five or 10 hectares of cocoa plants will require one permanent worker. That means around 150 fixed jobs in the next few years. It is worth mentioning that Belterra’s business plan sets out the goal of having 40,000 hectares of cocoa crops by 2030, generating between 60,000 and 80,000 metric tons of output per year and directly employing 4,000 people. It is a labor-intensive activity that will improve income distribution. We already have 21 rural properties operating in four states: Rondônia (2), Pará (2), Bahia (6) and Minas Gerais (11).
Belterra’s agroforestry systems

Luis Fernando Laranja – In recent years, we at Caaporã have developed a thesis to integrate the production of different animal proteins with agroforestry. The first initiative we worked on involved milk, through Guaraci, an operation that started in 2017 and is now mature. The goal was to obtain animal welfare and carbon neutrality certification. The integration of an agroforestry system with milk production allowed us to achieve animal welfare together with carbon sequestration and neutrality. Thus, we obtained three types of certifications: organic, animal welfare and carbon neutrality. This initiative gave rise to some other projects, and that was when Fundo Vale started to support us, aiming at other types of animals. So, we developed pilot projects with pigs, chickens and cattle (both beef and dairy). Caaporã has now started up with the support of Fundo Vale and this partnership is fundamental in structural terms.
As part of the Voluntary Forest Commitment, Caaporã’s work led to 350 hectares of restored habitat by 2020, and in 2021 our target is to reach 1,500 hectares. In all, five rural farming organizations are directly involved in this process

How is the growing of trees becoming an indispensable practice for the development of activities in the countryside in a more sustainable way?

Valmir Ortega – I think that the main challenge in Brazil for the development of agroforestry models, models with trees as a productive element in rural properties, is related to our short-term culture. In other words, we Brazilians, in general, whether in the city or in the countryside, have a short-term vision for doing business. Everything has to be immediate and very fast. At Belterra, we try to design production models with agroforestry systems that start producing from the first year. The reason is precisely to deal with this cultural barrier that we have in the country: a short-term vision of revenue, income and economic opportunity. Thus, we are planting short-cycle species of crops that require between three months and one year to harvest, such as corn, soybeans, beans, rice, peanuts and cassava. However, from the point of view of the model as a whole, we need a medium and long-term vision. We are talking about cocoa, açaí, cupuaçu, species that will reach their optimum production and balance from the fifth or seventh year of cultivation.

Another point is that models involving tree production systems require greater investment in the beginning and they take longer to generate consistent revenue. Therefore, the investment cost at the start of the operation is much higher and the breakeven time is longer. This requires a different type of investment and a different capital need. After all, not all farmers can wait.


“The logic is always to find different reasons to plant trees. In the end, we are obsessed with planting trees. We are planting out of conviction and we are creating a model that also makes sense from an economic point of view.”

Luis Fernando Laranja,
Founding partner, Caaporã

Luis Fernando Laranja – Adding tree growing also has multiple objectives, ranging from carbon sequestration to support for biodiversity and conservation of natural resources. It is worth mentioning that some trees have two or three purposes. For example, we are planting avocado trees, which have three functions. First, they produce avocados, which we can sell. Second, they are leafy and well-structured trees, so they provide shade, which improves animal welfare. Third, they also help with carbon sequestration, as they are robust and long-term trees, essential factors to enable carbon sequestration. We are also planting a variety of eucalyptus trees. We have about 15 varieties available. That is because when we plant three different types of eucalyptus on one property, they flower at different times. That is good for the small set of beehives we have on the farm, producing honey.

The eucalyptus trees also provide shade and sequester carbon, as well as boosting honey production. The logic is always to find different reasons to plant trees. In the end, we are obsessed with planting trees. We are planting out of conviction and we are creating a model that also makes sense from an economic point of view

“This type of investment by Fundo Vale is very important. After all, this investment prioritizes impacts, it is patient and it has greater risk exposure, which is crucial to create this type of business.”

Valmir Ortega,
Founding partner, Belterra


How has Fundo Vale’s impact investment transformed your company’s operations?

Valmir Ortega – In the case of Belterra, it has been decisive. After all, we received seed capital of R$10.5 million to contribute toward the Voluntary Forest Commitment in 2019 and 2020. For 2021, we have received further investment of R$25 million. We are a fledgling company that has demonstrated enormous potential for business impacts, but we had no prior track record for raising capital. This type of investment by Fundo Vale is very important. After all, this investment prioritizes impacts, it is patient and it has greater risk exposure, which is crucial to create this type of business. So, if we think about the challenge facing Brazil, to restore 12 million hectares and create new businesses linked to the forest chain, we will need more investments like this one. In other words, new funds, in addition to Fundo Vale, that are willing to expose themselves to the risks of new businesses. That doesn’t just mean businesses that were set up recently, but also new chains of enterprises that will be structured, which therefore have a high degree of uncertainty and aspects to be structured. It is necessary to have appropriate interest rates and expected returns, a balance between return and impacts. After all, this is money for profit and it can generate greater impacts.
We have also raised funds from the Good Energies Foundation in Switzerland and we are in advanced negotiations with a Brazilian impact investment fund and an American climate fund, for investment rounds this year. These funds are geared toward the climate, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the pursuit of solutions based on nature. This is our main investing public. It is also important to point out, regarding the viability of our business, that Belterra’s agroforestry models foresee breakeven in the third year of implementation.

Luis Fernando Laranja – Among all the aspects, the environmental impact combined with social impact stand out. The environmental impact is very logical, since, with the support of Fundo Vale, we took a step forward in our existing milk operation, for example, which culminated in the launch of NoCarbon Milk this quarter. We were able to plant more trees and accelerate the carbon neutralization process. These models also proved viable in the pilot projects we ran last year with Fundo Vale, facilitating the engagement of producers. For example, we are finalizing a partnership with six small dairy farmers who agreed to enter into a carbon neutrality certification plan. Thus, this production model will have a social impact on small producers, generating better income opportunities in the countryside. As for the feasibility and development of Caaporã’s activities and projects, it is important to say that each one has a specific breakeven period. For example, our milk-related activities should reach this point by the end of 2021, while the others should reach breakeven within two to three years. In addition to the investment made by Fundo Vale, today we are also talking to and receiving contributions from other funds.

What impacts have Belterra and Caaporã, in their work with the Voluntary Forest Commitment, been bringing to society in the midst of the pandemic?

Valmir Ortega – I believe there have been several aspects related to this. We had to learn to work remotely and therefore there was reeducation in our team and it had to happen quickly. This process happened at Belterra and Caaporã. We were building the company and expanding our operations at the same time. And this adaptation continues as the pandemic is not over yet. Faced with restrictions on mobility, we created conditions to mobilize networks of trust, partnership networks that would allow us to act in certain regions without going there in person. That required us to accelerate these decentralized work formats, hiring high-quality service providers and establishing local partnerships. From the very beginning of Belterra, we have chosen to work in four different states – Rondônia, Pará, Bahia and Minas Gerais – and this choice would already have required a decentralized model at the company. The pandemic radicalized this: it forced us to start operating in this way, with no preparation time. So, we had a steep learning curve, but we adapted well. On the other hand, there was a positive aspect: the crisis created by the pandemic made the planet’s environmental and climate risks more evident. Consequently, it has made it easier to quickly engage companies and investors to create and support solutions that minimize or mitigate these risks. Thus, solutions such as Belterra’s have become attractive.

Luis Fernando Laranja – There is no way to separate the social from the environmental in our activities. We are at an early stage, as we only started last year, but our approach is always to include family farmers in the process. In other words, we want to consolidate our pilot projects and spread this technology, through an open, public platform. In this regard, we are establishing an agreement with Embrapa to analyze life cycles and carbon emissions in organic milk production. We will be the first organic milk farm model in Brazil that will have this type of analysis. Our platform will have another very important impact element: the generation of public knowledge.

NoCarbon Milk
Caaporã, in partnership with the Guaraci Agropastoril farm (part of a larger farm called Fazenda do Toca), launched NoCarbon Milk this quarter. It is the first carbon-neutral milk in Brazil, produced from agropastoral systems and full of added value due to the growing of trees and the mix of forestry and farming. The milk has three certifications: organic, animal welfare and zero carbon.

Alignment with Brazilian context

Brazil has more than 5 million rural establishments, largely made up of family farmers, who in most cases lack access to capital, knowledge and technology. They often also face barriers to fairer and more transparent sales conditions. In its activities with small and medium producers, Belterra offers three types of contracts to these farmers:

Restoration of degraded areas through social and environmental impact businesses

In line with the Voluntary Forest Commitment’s goal to restore 100,000 hectares of devastated areas, Fundo Vale created, incubated and developed two startups to meet demand: Belterra and Caaporã. This involves an unprecedented, innovative and very challenging proposal to implement agroforestry systems on a large scale. To achieve the Voluntary Forest Commitment, the strategy was to start with a proof of concept, which in 2020 reached 1,530 planted hectares. By the end of 2021, we will reach another 5,000 hectares. We will continue to ramp up until we reach 100,000 hectares of restored areas in 2030, while generating social and environmental benefits for the entire chain involved.

Expectation of recovered areas for 2021
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