Frontier of Agricultural Opportunity for Brian Mike – Mato Grosso, Brazil
Brian Mike ('12 agricultural business) and his colleagues at FS Bioenergia in Lucas do Rio Verde recently hosted Iowa State University students to talk about corn ethanol and opportunities in this agricultural production super state of Mato Grosso, Brazil.
Mike first traveled to Brazil in a high school exchange program, where he first developed his skills communicating in Portuguese. “While at ISU, I did a couple internships either in Brazil or on Brazil projects,” he commented. “One of those projects was with Summit Agricultural Group, who was working to develop a project to put the first corn-based ethanol plant in Brazil.”
Ethanol is not a new fuel in Brazil, but it had always come from sugar cane rather than corn. “The conventional wisdom was that corn ethanol couldn’t compete with sugar cane, but Bruce Rastetter, his team and his partners thought differently,” Mike explained. “The technology had continued to evolve for corn ethanol and the corn production potential for Mato Grosso was significant. So today FS Bioenergia has two of the most efficient ethanol plants in the world, one in Lucas do Rio Verde and a second at Sorriso, also in Mato Grosso. Four additional corn ethanol plants are planned.”
Mike has seen FS Bioenergia go from an idea, to construction project, to today’s $1.5 billion revenue business. “We aim to produce carbon negative ethanol by 2030,” he explains. “It’s a really exciting plan, though we have a lot of work to do and a lot of things to figure out.”
Mike leads the team responsible for marketing DDGs, distillers dried grains. “It’s a new product to the livestock industry in Brazil,” he said. “And logistics are challenging in Brazil. Road, rail and river transportation aren’t nearly as developed as in the U.S. My team manages four hundred trucks every day.”
What is Mike’s perspective on opportunities in Brazil for students at Iowa State University today? “Brazil is the future of agriculture,” he explains. “Mato Grosso is the land of opportunity in agriculture. There is so much left to build. Think of industries that surround crop production in Iowa like grain bins, logistics, livestock, and food processing. Much of those industries still has to be built in Mato Grosso. Forty years ago, Lucas was a village. Today it has the ethanol plant, a soybean processing plant, a broiler processing plant, and almost one hundred thousand people.”