Female #FoodHeroes

Gabriela Nichel

Gabriela is a 25-year-old agronomist and farmer, working on a family farm, Boa Vista, in Rio Grande do Sul Brazil with her father and brothers.

 

What do you do?

My role on the farm is focused on technology, precision agriculture, and management. I am also one of the youTubers on FieldView TV, where we show people how farming is sustainable, technological, and how young people are coming back to the countryside to support their family business in food production.

In addition, I work as a travel guide in a company called AgroBravo, where we send Brazilian farmers to other agricultural regions around the world, like the U.S. Corn Belt for example.

Why do you love your job?

It is obvious that I love farming and life on the farm, but besides that, I love the fact that we represent young people. We are developing the countryside of Brazil and increasing productivity with better crop management, more efficient, and sustainable practices.

I also enjoy the work I do with FieldView for YouTube. The idea of being an example, or the idea that I can inspire someone to follow the same steps I’ve been taking is wonderful. My days get better with every comment or message I receive.

How did you get here?

I always wanted to work in our family business. But I have not been a farm girl since I was a kid! I spent my childhood in a small city located in the countryside of Rio Grande do Sul. Our farm is located in another small town, around 50 miles away.

When I finished school, I applied to study agriculture at university. When I was 16-17 years old, I started my undergraduate degree, and my goal was to finish as soon as possible, and come back to our farm to help my older brother.

My parents were worried that I might not really enjoy agriculture. But, despite not being a farmer yet, I was loving it. The idea of how big the agribusiness sector is, how technological it is becoming, and all the possibilities for working in the most important sector of the world – responsible for feeding the world’s growing population – all combined to make me fall in love with agriculture.

I took all the opportunities I was presented with, like traveling abroad to study and learn international agriculture. Part of my degree was more focused on research (soil fertility and crop management), and the second half more in agribusiness and technology. My idea was to come back home to do something different in our farm, not just to become “an extra person” at the farm, but make all our processes more efficient.

It’s been a year and a half since I came back home after a long learning process and I am adapting to life here in the countryside again. Things here at the farm have evolved a lot, because my family gives me the freedom to apply my ideas, and I try to work with everybody here at the farm to make it better day-by-day. Agriculture is not a short term process, things evolve at a slower pace than industries, but with improving technology the speed of change has been much faster.

And so I am still getting there, one step at a time. I still have much work to do every day to prove my value in our family business, and to be a better person with more empathy.

What are some of the challenges that you face on your farm?

Agriculture is an open sky industry, so for sure climate is a major challenge. But we work a lot with irrigation on our farm, which helps. Also, here in south Brazil, crop diseases are a major problem in corn, soy and winter cereals. Managing fungicides properly, using crop rotation and no-till practices provide a combination for success in controlling diseases and other pests.

How have technology and precision agriculture changed the way you farm?

We have been using precision agriculture on our farm since 2007. I focused on this a lot at university, from soil fertility to plant nutrition sensors. In recent years, the concept of digital agriculture, or Ag 4.0, has changed quite a bit. Nowadays the concept is to have all the information of your farm operation at your hand, if possible, in the same platform.

Technology has changed the way we farm, because of the speed of the information. I know everything about each operation – planting, spraying and combining – in real time; when an internet connection is available. I also receive satellite images weekly of our fields, so I can compare soil fertility in each part of a field with its harvest results. This also applies to financial operations, there is some real good software out there in which we can control stock, communicate with our suppliers, and better measure the financial results of the whole operation.

Farming has become a real industry, where we can measure results, and decide where to change based on numbers instead of suppositions.

What is your advice for young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming?

Study, work, and be prepared to show people your capacity. This way, you will never be disrespected by anyone. Men already know women are taking control of many industries and sectors. We have always been strong figures in farms, now the difference is that we are ruling them, managing, and making them more efficient.

Retweet this

How does agriculture need to change to be fit for the future?

Technology is changing the way we see agriculture and the whole value chain will be affected. We need to be prepared for the next generations, for better food distribution, and less waste. The only way we are going to feed the world’s increasing population is with sustainable farming.

What’s one challenge you face as a woman in agriculture and what do you think needs to be done to overcome this?

People who live in big cities tend to think that farming is only heavy work, they see the farming image as masculine. Today, we know that technology has overcome most of these problems, and now farming is much more about planning, managing, organizing, and finding ways to be more efficient in all processes.

Women fit into any part of food chain and I challenge the fact that I have studied more than most boys in our city, I am not afraid of communicating with our suppliers, neighbors and business partners.

 

Gabriela is just one of many inspirational women working in agriculture. Visit our Female #FoodHeroes page to hear from other women working to improve plant science and nutrition.