Horta da Terra Marks Debut of TerraBio Methodology

The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT visited Belém to collect data

August, 2022 - Horta da Terra is a startup that produces dehydrated unconventional food plants (UFPs, or PANCs in the Portuguese acronym). In addition to working with Amazon plants, Horta da Terra adopts syntropic farming techniques to increase productivity and reduce the use of agricultural inputs.

In 2021, Horta da Terra received investment from the Amazon Biodiversity Fund (ABF-Brazil), co-created by USAID, Mirova, and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT. Under the fund's impact monitoring program, Horta da Terra will be assessed on environmental and social aspects, including by the innovative methodology that helps to calculate the environmental impact of sustainable practices.  

TerraBio integrates cutting-edge sensing technologies with innovative techniques for collecting biodiversity data to calculate environmental impacts associated with the implementation of sustainable practices.  It can help support management of  businesses that commercialize forest and sustainable agriculture products and invest in sustainable business models.TerraBio adopts monitoring, evaluation, and analysis approach to generate evidence on environmental impacts.  

TerraBio’s satellite data collection is sustained through a partnership with the SERVIR Amazônia program and the Spatial Informatics Groups (SIG). In order to carry out the analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA), it is necessary to collect soil samples from selected areas for evaluation in a specialized laboratory. The Horta da Terra site visit in Pará was for sample collection, as explained by Wendy Francescony, responsible for the environmental component of the CAL-PSE program.

“This is the first practical application of TerraBio. We collected soil samples from the Horta da Terra farm to make a comparison between the planted intervention area, which adopts syntropic farming, and the forest. Basically, we will compare the environmental DNA of these samples with what we have in the reference area, and also with a neighboring property, which adopts conventional agricultural practices,” explained Francescony.

In total, over 70 soil samples were collected in the three areas. These samples were stored using silica gel or a special liquid that helps to preserve eDNA to ensure their viability until they reached the laboratory. Horta da Terra's team received training to apply the methodology.

“We started our visit by training staff TerraBio’s application process. We explained our methodology and collection techniques. Then we practiced together, so that everyone could see exactly how samples are to be collected. It is very important to engage businesses in data production, as our goal is to ensure that this analytical work may continue over the next 10 years. We want businesses to be responsible for data collection in the future; and once they get the results, they should understand what they mean. This process is very important for us because, in addition to facilitating collection between now and the future, they will become part of our monitoring efforts; therefore, they will be engaged in the whole process of evaluating and monitoring their own businesses,” added Francescony.

For Horta da Terra, participating in the study is very positive, it helps to confirm they are on the right path. “We understand, after speaking with our neighbors and based on what we saw when we got here, and on where we are today, that there has been a huge increase in biodiversity—including insects, fungi, soil bacteria, soil species, bigger species, etc. 

Through this partnership with TerraBio, we can understand the technical-scientific basis of this evidence, as opposed to guesswork. We will be able to make this comparison, and we will have data to support our assumptions,” celebrated André Bueno Barros, agronomist and operational director of Horta da Terra.

The soil samples were sent to a specialized laboratory for analysis and identification of eDNA traces. This will determine the presence of different animal species on the property. After analysis, the results will be integrated with satellite images and presented to Horta da Terra.

The CAL-PSE Program - Impact business, nature-based solutions, and ESG investments have a mutual desire to produce a more sustainable and socially fair economic system. It is necessary to have clear evidence of their impact on conserving biodiversity and improving the quality of life of local populations for the success of these models. Therefore, it is essential to develop standards and tools guarantee transparency on the impacts of such investments on biodiversity and on the well-being of the people.

The Catalyzing and Learning through Private Sector Engagement (CAL-PSE) program results from a unique partnership between USAID Brazil and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT. The goal is to change our approach to conservation in the Brazilian Legal Amazon, while improving the well-being of local communities. By mobilizing businesses to play an active part in implementing activities and financing sustainable development, CAL-PSE expects to intensify the private sector’s engagement in the strengthening and innovation of conservation initiatives

CAL-PSE's Monitoring, Evaluation,and Learning (MEL) team combines scientific rigor and cutting-edge technology to develop monitoring and evaluation solutions that facilitate project management. These are methodologies and tools that guarantee transparency: they produce and refine guidelines for action, and make their long-term impact visible—both for biodiversity and for local populations in each territory.

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