What are some examples of successful biobased-economy projects in the Amazon?

Acai was introduced to markets in the 1980s, and has grown rapidly. The global Acai berry market is projected to reach +2 billion USD by 2025.

Acai can be vastly more profitable - and non-destructive to the Amazon - than cattle, soy, or other agriculture:

Estimated profits annually
$1,000 per hectare per year- Acai
$200 per hectare per year - **Soy **
$100 per hectare per year - Cattle

Agriculture is the primary driver of +70% of deforestation. What are some sustainable alternatives that are like Acai berry, that have great market potential?

The story of how açaí came to be is an interesting one, and this WRI article by Carlos Nobre does a great job telling it: Brazil’s Fruitful Example: Açaí | World Resources Institute.

Açaí is touted as a modern-day super-food, but the berry was used as food by indigenous communities long before it reached worldwide fame. The scientific community took notice of the fruit and began researching application in food, food supplements, and cosmetics.

WRI notes that açaí is just one of thousands of other natural products that originate from tropical biodiversity. **What other plant and animal species in the rainforest might be equally valuable, but are unknown to the world?
Nobre writes, “[Our] greatest potential lies in what has not yet been discovered. The great capital of this century is not material, but knowledge. Science and technology can unveil the incomparable biological assets hidden in the Amazonian biodiversity.”


The Amazon Basin/Forest/Biome is an impressive region and is home not only of a huge biodiversity, but hundreds of human cultures well adapted and owners of a miriad of knowledge elements about nature and its uses. Similar to the açaí, there are hundreds of opportunities to explore non-timber forest products and some animal species with potentital for a sustainable management, bellow some examples:

I think to promote sustainability to influence the regional development in Amazonia in a better and less destrutive way and to promote conservation it is important to work in a perspective of multiple uses of natural resources working close to local communities. The history shows to us that pressure over one or another product could be destructive too. More and more we are loosing opportunities and field to the economic activities built in a business as usual model, with a look of prey over commodities. There are many positive aspects to open up a range of possibilities at the same time and they are related not only to use the amazon nature and its elements in a rational mode, but to value local cultures and social development related to cultural way of land ocupation and incorporating traditional knowledge and livelihoods to the development chain.

I like the idea of growing cocao/cacao, as we are at peak chocolate production world wide)…but my understanding is that growing this high-value crop requires a particular terrain (e.g., sunny montane areas) and climate (e.g., not too wet as to encourage mold, which is a problem in Africa) which may not be proximal to indigenous peoples (but possibly more accessible to more mobile/capitalized business owners/growers).

Question to Ms. Hamrick: : How is growing acai ‘non-destructive’ to forests? For local ‘buy-in’ of conservation/alternative growing, the agricultural area must be proximal to the locals (whether indigenous or other), and this would seem to mean either IN the forest, or, adjacent to forested areas (grasslands/‘buffer zones’) – thus potentially promoting degradation. Is this (acai growing) simply a matter of limiting the ‘degree’ or extent of forest degradation or loss? Can acai be grown ‘within’ the forested area without (greatly) negatively impacting it?

Also: cdurigan wrote: “…multiple uses of natural resources working close to local communities.” This sounds good at first read, but I am wondering if ‘multiple uses of natural resources’ might put to much of a local burden on forested spaces (e.g., human traffic, harvesting activity, etc.) leading to over-use and degradation (e.g., thinning of tree density, loss of under brush/ground plants, even possible ecosystem disruption via regime change). Please clarify how this approach will not encourage over-use/degradation while simultaneously creating ‘buy-in’ behaviors.

Oh, I do appreciate the profit motive ‘buy-in’ with regards to acai (v. cattle)…but so much commodity crop growing is demand based…and demand for meat (especially as developing economies grow) seems to out-pace demand for fruit (especially exotic’ sounding fruit that Westerners are unfamiliar with). Seems we need simultaneous changes to occur: increase demand for acai, decreased demand for beef (“hamberders”)

Thank you @cdurigan and @marz62 for your insightful comments here. These are some great examples of non-timber products that can help protect the forest while also creating wealth for local communities.

Beneath the canopy, what technologies and methods do you see as most effective in identifying new species? How might a greater understanding of the forest biodiversity contribute further to a diverse supply chain of bio-economies that benefits local communities and the region at large?

How do you think that investment trends that we are seeing today, such as investments in alternative wood products, food tech, and meat alternatives might shift perceptions of value?

@Kathleen_Hamrick and @cdurigan - Please review my comment(s) above as there are explicit and implicit questions regarding the ideas presented in your comments (e.g., how does acai cultivation prevent deforestation? and, How will ‘multiple use’ scenarios impact ecosystem health? etc.)

@Kathleen_Hamrick - In regards to method: as a guiding principle, inclusion of indigenous stakeholders (who face several existential threats) is key; this includes a thorough analysis/review of native/indigenous ecological knowledge (knowledge of plants, animals, seasonal or even decadal cycles, etc.). In regards to technology, a smart phone app like SEEK, Lookup Life, or iNaturalist may be useful – especially if updated regularly with indigenous knowledge (identification of key plants, trees, flowers, insects/pollinators, etc.). The utilization in the field (‘beneath the canopy’) of such apps would need to be supported by an on-going research/data collection effort. Plus, field-compatible, scaled down, NGS genetic tech (like the minION sequencer or a ‘nanopore’ -type DNA reader) – connected to a cloud database of searchable (e.g., using BLAST or equivalent genetic database software) sequences – can be invaluable to identifying and cataloguing (distinguishing variants) plants in situ.

Hi @marz62,

Hope all is doing well. I mention multiple uses following the model indigenous and other traditional communities are soing for centuries, using the potential of forests with low impact. We have good examples going on here in Amazonia. The idea is to explore potential, developing ideas and planning activities with a strong participatory approach. There are some experiences developing sustainable uses of forests based in comunity-based protocols. Integration of knowledges is crucial for this approach, join traditional with scientific perceptions/knowledge.

Using the example of açaí, a good experience ia in course in Amapá State, Brazil, the Amazon Bai: https://www.amazonbai.com.br


Thank you @cdurigan and @marz62 for the responses! We have a new topic on biodiversity we would love to have your feedback on: https://community.xprize.org/amazon-rainforest/discussion/236/what-emerging-technologies-can-be-used-to-help-us-more-quickly-identify-new-species Any input there would be appreciated!

**How to benefit from the standing forest and flowing rivers and effectively conserve biodiversity in three steps:

  1. Selecting areas for the sustainable utilization, transforming
    the biological richness of the Amazon into economic wealth,
    that will benefit local communities and the region (A3W).

  2. Creating conservation units to protect natural resources
    and preserve rich in biodiversity environment.

  3. Sustainable way of settlement in form of Circular Cities -
    contemporary forest communities, integrating nature and technology.

**Network of interconnected Circular Cities is the solution to the 21st century biggest challenges.