Farming Goes High-Tech in the Amazon

computer 3D modeling being used in the Peruvian Amazon for farming

In the Amazon, technology can be difficult. The high heat and humidity prevents many machines from working.

“To be honest, anything above a combustion engine is ‘technologically advanced’ in the area of Peru we’re working in,” said Rick Pickett, a volunteer with Eco Ola, a company trying to promote and sell Amazonian super-foods while maintaining biodiversity and helping local farmers.

Eco Ola has nine hectares of land, on which they are using sustainable farming techniques like polycultures (using more than one plant species in the same area), alley cropping (growing an agricultural crop simultaneously with a long-term tree crop to provide annual income while the tree crop matures), and rotating crops.

Most farmers in the Loreto region of Peru practice simple agriculture. They plant cassava, plantains, and papaya. In low areas with higher fertility, or in slash-burn areas, they’ll also plant rice or corn. The concepts of soil maintenance and creation are virtually non-existent, says Pickett.

Pickett says that the land can’t hold up to such heavy use. “They exhaust the fertility and life of the soil and then move on to new forest for clearing, due to the inherent fragility of the nutrient cycle in the humid tropics,” he said. Ninety-percent of the organic matter lives in the leaf litter and biomass of the forest, with the remaining 10% residing in the soil. With slashing-and-burning, followed by heavy nutrient feeding crops, the soil’s nutrients are quickly absorbed and leached by the heat and high rainfall.