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Seeds that grow into businesses

Forest engineer André Nave has a company that produces seedlings and seeds to reforest damaged areas

Carreiras_DSC_0458personal archiveIn 1998, while still working on his master’s degree in forest sciences at the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture at the University of São Paulo (Esalq-USP), agronomist André Nave identified a business opportunity because of requirements imposed by Brazilian environmental legislation on forest restoration in permanent preservation and legal reserve areas. Through conversations with researchers from the Ecology and Forest Restoration Laboratory at the university, the idea came about of founding Bioflora Tecnologia da Restauração, a company that produces and sells seedlings and seeds of native species of the Atlantic Forest that can be used to reforest damaged areas. The seedlings and seeds that Bioflora grows are sold to rural enterprises, agricultural producers, nongovernmental organizations and municipal governments.

After Nave completed his PhD in forest resources at Esalq-USP, he decided to add new lines of business to his company, based in Piracicaba, São Paulo State. Today, Bioflora also provides consulting services and puts together and carries out projects to regenerate damaged or altered areas. It offers training courses as well as other environmental restoration services in Brazil and abroad. “In one project, we evaluate rural properties and detect possible environmental issues,” he explains. “Based on this initial evaluation, we develop the most appropriate strategy with the lowest cost so that the area complies with environmental legislation.”

Bioflora’s work on new restoration methodologies is forging ahead in a partnership with students and professors from Esalq-USP laboratories. Many of the studies on germination of native species and direct seeding are tested in the company’s growing fields. Nave says the idea is to give students the opportunity to conduct practical testing of their research hypotheses that are developed in the laboratory.

One of the strategies Bioflora developed was based on the principle that forests need to accommodate a wide variety of species to return to what is considered normal. To this end, Nave invested in the construction of a vivarium with species that perform better for reforestation. “The Bioflora vivarium is one of the largest in São Paulo State, with the capacity to produce four million seedlings of 200 native species per year.” In 2015 the company obtained funding from FAPESP through the Innovative Research in Small Businesses Program (PIPE) to establish and compare restoration methodologies and to assess their effectiveness based on operating costs and the potential for regenerating forest areas.