Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Tata Trusts have joined hands to set up the India Agritech Incubation Network (IAIN) and launch the ‘Social Alpha Quest for Agritech Innovations’. The IAIN is envisioned as a network of incubators across the country to promote innovations for smallholder farmers. The first hub for IAIN will be set up at IIT Kanpur’s Innovation and Incubation center, in collaboration with Social Alpha, Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI) and the Government of Uttar Pradesh.
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.
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 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 start-ups 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,” Mehta added.
Manoj Kumar, Head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Tata Trusts and CEO, Social Alpha, said, “Venture Investments are gaining momentum in agritech space though mostly limited to Internet of Things, 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 farmers. The Quest aims to support, mentor and engage mission driven entrepreneurs to develop solutions that will positively improve the livelihood outcomes of small and marginal farmers.”
As part of the Quest, up to 12 winners will receive:
- Sandbox facility to test, validate and pilot innovations and projects on the ground in Uttar Pradesh, using Tata Trusts’ extensive network
- Access to Social Alpha’s seed investment and / or grants funding; and facilitated access to a large investor and donor network
- Access to state-of-the-art technology incubation space with high quality labs, equipment for refining and testing at IIT Kanpur’s Incubator facility
- Product development support including assistance with designing, rapid prototyping and design for manufacturing
- Dedicated agribusiness experts to assist with business planning, developing go-to-market strategy and overall business advisory
- Mentorship by a set of qualified global and local experts; and curated set of capacity building sessions
- Practical on-the-ground feedback from the farmer community, grassroots non-profits, agriculture experts and corporate and government bodies
- Access to shared office space and amenities at Social Alpha or IIT Kanpur incubation centres and support services such as accounting, compliance, taxation, legal, IP, among other services.
“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 statement is to develop regions as drivers of growth and we strongly believe user friendly technology innovations in agriculture will help achieve the goal” said Ganesh Neelam, Zonal Manager, Tata Trusts and Executive Director, CInI
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.
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 among many others 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 glad that Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Tata Trusts have chosen IIT Kanpur as the technology partner for IAIN. IIT Kanpur’s research expertise across departments with state-of-the-art infrastructure accessible to start-ups and incubator puts us in a unique position to address issues that can transform agriculture and livelihood of India,” Karandikar added.
Photo Caption: Manoj Kumar, Head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Tata Trusts and CEO, Social Alpha; Ganesh Neelam, Zonal Manager, Tata Trusts and Executive Director, CInI; Dr. Abhay Karandikar, Director, IIT Kanpur, Amit Mohan Prasad, Principal Secretary, Agriculture Department, GoUP; Nidhi Nath Srinivas, Senior Programme Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.