Gates Foundation, Tata Trusts to set up Rs 100-crore agritech incubator at IIT-Kanpur

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Published: July 2, 2019 3:39:37 AM

Uttar Pradesh will benefit the most from this initiative as it will focus in the three most backward districts of Bahriach, Shravasti and Balrampur.

Gates Foundation, Tata Trusts, agritech incubator, IIT-Kanpur, Social Alpha Quest, India Agritech Incubation NetworkThe first hub for IAIN has been set up at IIT-Kanpur’s Innovation and Incubation centre.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Tata Trusts have joined hands to set up the India Agritech Incubation Network (IAIN) at IIT-Kanpur and launch the Social Alpha Quest for Agritech Innovations.

With an investment of more than Rs 100 crore expected in the next five years, IAIN is envisioned as a network of incubators across the country to promote innovations for small farmers.

Uttar Pradesh will benefit the most from this initiative as it will focus in the three most backward districts of Bahriach, Shravasti and Balrampur. The initiative is an effort to raise the income and agriculture production of the small and marginal farmers with innovative technology. Experts feel that the change would be observed within next two years’ time.

The first hub for IAIN has been set up at IIT-Kanpur’s Innovation and Incubation centre, in collaboration with Social Alpha, Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI) and the government of Uttar Pradesh.

As part of IAIN, a physical incubator will be set up at IIT-Kanpur to provide incubation services, including specialised laboratory infrastructure, venture-building resources, financial support and farmer community access to help catalyse the lab-to-last-mile journey. Over the next five years, the plan is to support 60 enterprises with technology and business incubation that will impact 50,000 farmers.

The Social Alpha Quest for Agritech Innovations was announced with the aim of enabling an ecosystem for innovators and entrepreneurs to develop farmer-focused technology solutions. The objective would be to empower small and marginal farmers towards increasing productivity and profitability.

The Quest is looking for innovators and entrepreneurs with transformative technologies that address a curated set of challenges faced by smallholder farmers. Up to 12 innovations will be selected to be a part of the first cohort of the IAIN and will receive incubation support for the next 12-24 months.

UP principal secretary (agriculture) Amrit Mohan, while releasing the logo of the IAIN here on Monday, appreciated the initiative and claimed that only technology can change the entire agriculture scenario.

He said that the incubation centre will speed up the process to double the income of farmers by introducing latest technologies in the agriculture sector. The officer also stressed the need for doing work on climate change which has affected the small and marginal farmers the most.

Dr Abhay Karandikar, director, IIT-Kanpur, said: “Modern technologies spanning geospatial mapping, input and output management, modern irrigation with IoT enabled devices, innovation in agri finance and logistics, development of efficient post-harvest technologies etc. have great potential to transform agriculture into an attractive profession. Affordable technology enabled India-centric solutions can help Indian farmers increase their productivity and income levels.”

“I am grateful that Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Tata Trusts have chosen IIT-Kanpur as the technology partner for IAIN. IIT Kanpur and research expertise across departments with state-of-the-art infrastructure accessible to startups and incubators puts us in a unique position to address issues that can transform agriculture and livelihood of India,” he said.

Innovative technology solutions, with a strong focus on affordability, accessibility, efficiency and user experience across the agriculture and allied value chain are invited to participate in the quest. These would include focus on enhancing yield and productivity, better post-harvest loss management and value addition, improving market linkages and traceability, among others.

Dr Purvi Mehta, head of agriculture, Asia, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “We deeply appreciate the Uttar Pradesh government’s vision of using technology as a vehicle for the economic development of smallholder farmers. For inclusive agricultural transformation, it is important to align the country’s agriculture innovation, incubation and investment ecosystems with the needs of smallholder agricultural and livestock sectors. We believe Social Alpha, CInI and IIT Kanpur will provide the right ecosystem and intensive mentorship to startups with the potential to show large-scale sustainable impact. We are hopeful that IAIN will emerge as a collaborative and responsive network that will place special emphasis on technology adoption by smallholders while building a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs to scale their business.”

Manoj Kumar, head of innovation and entrepreneurship, Tata Trusts, and CEO of Social Alpha, said: “Venture investments are gaining momentum in agritech space though mostly limited to Internet of Things (IoT), e-commerce and farm-to-fork logistics play. Deep science and technology innovations in agriculture and livestock are yet to receive similar incubation and investment support, which is necessary to improve productivity, efficiency and profitability of our farmers.

The Quest aims to support, mentor and engage mission driven entrepreneurs to develop solutions that will positively improve the livelihoods outcomes of small and marginal farmers.”

As part of IAIN, a physical incubator will be set up at IIT-Kanpur to provide incubation services, including specialised laboratory infrastructure, venture-building resources, financial support and farmer community access to help catalyse the lab-to-last-mile journey. Over the next five years, the plan is to support 60 enterprises with technology and business incubation that will impact 50,000 farmers.

Ganesh Neelam, zonal manager, Tata Trusts and executive director, said: “We have focused on infusion of technology-led innovations in the rural areas as a key step towards achieving sustainability and irreversibility under our Mission programme for small holder farmers. Through the IAIN programme, we would like to demonstrate at scale agriculture technology innovations for small and marginal farmers. One of our goal is to develop regions as drivers of growth and we strongly believe user friendly technology innovations in agriculture will help achieve the goal.”

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