Brazilian ag-tech firm picks Indiana for U.S. HQ, plans 334 jobs

A Brazilian agricultural technology company plans to set up its U.S. headquarters in West Lafayette, creating up to 334 jobs by 2022.

Solinftec, which makes digital platforms to help farmers improve crop returns,  said Thursday it would invest $50.6 million in software and computer hardware at the Purdue Research Park.

That location will allow the company to work with Purdue University’s College of Agriculture and a wide swath of farm operations across north-central Indiana.

The company made the announcement during the Agbioscience Innovation Summit in Indianapolis, put on by AgriNovus Indiana, an initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership.

“The U.S. Midwest is core to our strategy,” said Renato Hersz, Solinftec’s strategy and corporate development director. “We recognize its importance in the global food and its ag ecosystem.”

The company said it planned to hire as many as 90 people next year in positions in sales and IT, as well as data scientists, engineers and agronomists. The jobs are expected to offer salaries above the state's average annual wage of about $46,000.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. will offer the company up to $6 million in conditional tax credits, based on the job-creation plans.

Solinftec bills itself as a leader in digital agriculture. Its first virtual assistance technology, called “Alice,” involves installing a smart black box in agricultural equipment and sensors in the field under a user-friendly platform. The technology allows farmers to become more efficient in planting, harvesting and spraying.

The 11-year-old company said another factor in its decision to locate operations in Indiana was the opportunity to work with the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network, a consortium of 10 counties in north-central Indiana. The organization, which uses a wide network of internet-enabled sensors, is set up to develop the region into a “global epicenter of digital agriculture and next generation manufacturing.” It was formed with the help of a $40 million grant from the Lilly Endowment.

There are more than 5,000 farms in north-central Indiana that could benefit from Solinftec’s ability to capture and analyze data, said Johnny Park, the network’s CEO.

Solinftec said it grew quickly in Latin America by making sugar cane and row crop operations more efficient. Its technology is used in more than 16 million acres of farmland.

Indiana is a leading producer of corn, soybeans and tomatoes, areas in which Solinftec is looking to expand. The sector contributes about $16 billion a year to Indiana’s economy.

“Indiana is at the center of innovation in agtech, and today’s news is yet another example of the collaborative ecosystem we’ve created here,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in written comments.

The company crossed paths with AgriNovus at an ag tech conference earlier this year in San Francisco, said Beth Bechdol, AgriNovus’ president and CEO. “Their commitment to bringing their technology to row crops and to the Midwest was clear, and I’m thrilled that they recognized the depth and diversity of Indiana’s agbioscience assets.”

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