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Amid Protests, Govt Rolls Out Outreach Program for Agri Start-ups to Usher in Farmer-centric Innovations

By: Sagar Gupta


Last Updated: December 18, 2020, 21:42 IST

Image for representation (PTI file photo)

Image for representation (PTI file photo)

Experts believe that small farmers with limited capacity and capital have been left behind in the productivity and profitability race. The time for catalytic innovation that puts the needs of the farmer at the centre is now.

In its aim to bring more reforms to the agriculture sector, the government, in its ongoing discussions with several stakeholders that began on Friday, decided to resolve large-scale issues in agriculture through advanced technologies. Through the agri-tech partnership, the government will discuss loopholes in the sector and roll out a mechanism through which Indian startups can propose solutions.

The office of Prof K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the government, is directly involved with tech giant Cisco and The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation that has a mandate to highlight the challenges for start-ups on specific problems over the next five years. The first in this series is ‘Cisco Agri Challenge’.

Other than a Rs 2 crore prize money for the winner of the agri-challenge, the startups will also be mentored by leading business, technology and political leaders.

“My office has directly been involved in creating ‘KisanMitr’ – a platform for innovation, access to farming communities, and discovery of high potential solutions and models. Startups and entrepreneurs participating in the challenge will find an immense network of experts including from the farming communities, to deeply understand the needs of the customer, access to go-to-market channels, knowledge, data and insights and most importantly – allies who will help to achieve a few years’ worth of milestones within the year-long challenge,” Raghavan said.

Speaking to News18, Harish Krishnan, Managing Director, Public Affairs and Strategic Engagements, Cisco India and SAARC, said, “The ‘Agri Challenge’ seeks to enable entrepreneurs to innovate scalable technology solutions that can help India’s farmers improve farm efficiency, make data-driven decisions, and gain access to fair price markets. We believe that fast-tracking economic recovery and growth post-pandemic must be rooted in the empowerment of small farmers.”

The/Nudge Foundation CEO Atul Satija told News18, “94% of farming in US is technology-led. Leveraging Public-Private Partnerships, we’re striving to increase the income of 10 million marginal farmers by 2025. With our partner ecosystem, we’re helping discovery, development and scaling of technological solutions led by start-ups that directly impact farmer livelihood, such as precision agriculture tools and AI, sustainable financing models, life science and farm inputs and other innovative farmer-centric solutions.”

The rural economy has taken the greatest hit during Covid-19 as 60 per cent farmers have seen a yield loss on their harvest, shows a recent study.

57% of the country’s population in involved in the agriculture sector. Agri-tech is now seen as a fertile playing field to revive the Indian economy.

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first published:December 18, 2020, 21:41 IST
last updated:December 18, 2020, 21:42 IST