Jan. 12 - A Brazilian agronomist and entrepreneur has developed a seed-planting system that promises to significantly boost the productivity of small farms. With a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mateus Marrafon is testing his design in the hopes of eventually commercializing it for use in developing nations around the world. Tara Cleary has more.
Corn seeds...a staple for small-scale, low income farmers the world over. For Brazilian agronomist Mateus Marrafon, they are also at the root of an experiment he believes could change the face of agriculture in the developing world Marrafon's idea comprises a simple system - seeds are placed inside biodegradable cellulose tape which is designed to unravel for burial in a field. SOUNDBITE: AGRONOMIST AND INVENTOR, MATEUS MARRAFON, SAYING (Portuguese): "This cellulose tape is proportionally big and thick. It has an incredible ability to absorb water from the soil and then keeps the water close to the seed. Having the water close to the seed enhances the process of germination." Crucial to the design is the spacing of the seeds - they must be far enough apart to ensure optimal room for growth. And Marrafon says his system makes it easy for low-income farmers to plant without needing expensive machinery. SOUNDBITE: AGRONOMIST AND INVENTOR, MATEUS MARRAFON, SAYING (Portuguese): "A farmer buys the tape if he's going to engage in sustainable agriculture - and the tape comes with corn (seeds) for whichever location, properly spaced. So the only task he will have is to take the tape and unroll it into the soil." Marrafon's seed tape has attracted attention - in 2013 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded him a grant, which will allow him to test his design in Africa. And if it takes off the way he hopes, Maraffon sees potential for growth all over the world.