As Global Head of Marketplace at Indigo, Aline Oliveira Pezente is the definition of an innovator. She has risen to top ranks at some of the world’s largest companies, first within the investment banking sector, then finding her place within agriculture for the past 17 years.
With an MS in technology from MIT, Aline is passionate about how technology and machine learning can transform agriculture to make it more beneficial for farmers and the planet, which is part of how she came to join Indigo. Her work has included ample time in the field interacting with growers, both in Brazil, her home country, and in the U.S.
Here Aline shares her vision for the future of a more beneficial agriculture system.
1. What led you to devoting 17 years of your life to agriculture?
Agriculture has real purpose. It's so complex and so important to the world. I'm really passionate about this sector. I love farmers—they are so impressive. Like traders of commodities, farmers are dealing with a lot of risk management. As I learned more about the dynamics of trading commodities and planting, I found my purpose.
2. What drew you to Indigo?
First of all, I was drawn to the mission. The innovations Indigo is trying to achieve are very valuable and aligned with what the world needs. Agriculture has operated in the same way for the past 150 years. The sector has a lot of complexities and a lot of risks to manage, but it has not seen very much innovation. Technology can really improve some of those complex and risk-laden interactions. Indigo understands that by fixing the problems of the supply chain, we can fix the other problems on climate change and social economic imbalance. Agriculture is important to both.
3. What do you see as the biggest opportunity to make the food system more beneficial for people and for the planet?
Farmers carry so much risk just planting and harvesting. But equally the buyers also carry a lot of risks and have a lot of challenges executing on them. I will be focusing on making those interactions between grower and buyer more transparent and more efficient by reducing costs and time. I also want to reduce the emotional aspects that can come into play when farmers and buyers are doing the transactions. Marketplace and Transport have the opportunity to create technology that enables the supply chain to have more valuable interactions on both sides. And the Carbon marketplace…now that's a big opportunity.
4. Have you spent time interacting with farmers much in your career?
I have spent a lot of time with farmers. Last year I drove through Brazil and the U.S. to meet the farmers. Now with COVID-19, we are in touch on social media.
Farming in Brazil is very unique. First of all, planting and harvesting in Brazil is complex because the lack of infrastructure adds a level of complexity to doing business. I really admire the Brazilian farmers because they have been ahead of their time in adopting technologies and implementing them to obtain margins despite the complexity in logistics. They have to be much more efficient in order to make their business profitable. These farmers are really progressive.
5. How do we address diversity within agriculture? Do you have ideas about how that evolves?
Agriculture is a predominantly male sector. People normally think men are farmers, not women. But in fact, the reality is on a lot of farms it’s the women that are managing the accounts and operations. They advise their husbands on when to sell, how to sell, who to sell to. Bringing the role women play in farming to the surface is something we need to do. The sector doesn't build products and services thinking about the women that are alongside their families or directing leading in that business. That's one of the things we need to do.
I'll be very honest. I'm a Latina with pink hair. There are people who treat me differently. I think that this is part of human nature. We are always trying to seek patterns in any way in our life. And when you are in front of something which is different, or which is not equal to that pattern, you ask questions. I think it’s important that the industry really embrace diversity in their hiring on how they bring more diversity to the teams across all roles. It's our responsibility to raise and deeply embrace those discussions to create a culture that fosters relationships and connections.