The Ministry of Agriculture and Invest India have collaborated to organise a first of its kind event, The Agriculture Grand Challenge, which will be launched by officials on December 15, 2017 during the upcoming TiEcon Summit in New Delhi.
Villgro and Qualcomm have also collaborated to be the strategic partners of the initiative.
The Agriculture Grand challenge is a unique opportunity for agritech startups to solve for some key challenges which are being faced by Indian farmers. The Ministry of Agriculture, in association with Invest India, has identified 12 key problem statements which range from providing a fair price to the farmer to the creation of yield estimation models which can be used by farmers.
Agriculture Grand Challenge: A Glimpse Of 12 Key Problem Statements
Testing Micronutrients In Soil
The challenge is seeking the development of simplified, sensor-based and quick soil testing methods to test the nutrients and micronutrients. A proven technology will be supported under Soil Health Management scheme so that states can procure directly from the developer at a fixed price (as has already been done for mini soil health labs).
Quick Sorting Of Huge Lots For eNAM
Electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM) is a virtual market with a physical market (mandi) at the back end, which networks the existing APMC/mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities for pan-India electronic trading. Mandis handles huge volumes of arrival. Hence it is essential to provide quick quality assaying solutions (preferably within a minute/ parameter) to promote online trading.
For this, the challenge is aiming to promote the development of quick grading and assaying solution for eNAM which can also be connected to the Internet to increase the efficiency of the agricultural chain.
Formation Of Emarketplaces
While self-sufficiency in agriculture has been a priority for the Government and several policy initiatives weave around this objective, post-harvest management including agricultural marketing has not kept pace with the changes in economy, particularly in relation to the setting up of an efficient supply chain. The challenge is seeking help in developing an organised marketplace in the highly unorganised sector. If this happens, National Agriculture Market (NAM) would create a win-win situation for both i.e. agripreneurs and processors.
Price Forecast System At The Time Of Sowing
In India, price of commodity is dependent on various external factors such as area, yield, production, household food demand, feed demand, etc. In this regard, a mechanism may be developed by startups that can use the data of past trends and other mentioned factors to forecast the prices of particular crops, taken into consideration the sowing patterns, weather and many other related factors.
Broadcasting Government’s Initiatives
In India, farmers may not be aware of all the schemes that are implemented by the central government and state governments for their welfare. In this regard, the challenge intends to promote the development of an online platform at the panchayat/common service center/KVK level which will provide information to farmers regarding schemes and benefits that they are entitled to thereunder. Linking with Aadhar, Soil Health Cards and crop as well as health insurance etc. may be considered on this platform for the welfare of farmers.
Yield Estimation Model
The challenge seeks to develop a web-based spatial decision support system which takes data from high-resolution satellite, UAV, satellite-based agro-meteorological parameters, sensor networks giving information, etc. to provide estimates of yield at the farm level. The solution should be evaluated for 2-3 different types of crops taking a block/tehsil as the minimum implementation unit. The solution should be user-friendly, upgradable and expandable to other geographical area and other crops.
Increasing Shelf Life Of Agriculture Produce
The challenge is seeking technological solutions to increase the efficiency of the agricultural chain and ultimately reduce waste, while also increasing farmers’ earnings
Use Of Technology To Test Adulteration Of Fresh Produce
Food is essential for nourishment and sustenance of life. Adulteration of food cheats the consumer and can pose a serious risk to health. Food is adulterated if its quality is lowered or affected by the addition of substances which are injurious to health or by the removal of substances that are nutritious. The challenge is looking for technological solutions to give the consumer an opportunity to detect common adulterants in food
Availability Of Small Agricultural Implements
Creation of regional agri-kiosk by the respective department to provide a kind of a one-stop shop for all agricultural needs providing services such as soil testing, seed selection, appropriate pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. The challenge is looking for solutions to improve the availability of agricultural inputs through Custom Hiring Centres
Alternate Usage Of Paddy Straw
The challenge is seeking technological solutions for alternative usage of paddy straw to discourage Crop Residue Burning
Substitute For Pesticides and Insecticides
Due to lack of effective, affordable and eco-friendly technologies to control pests, farmers are left with no choice but to continue spraying harmful and toxic pesticides on crops. The challenge is looking for technology solutions to substitute the use of pesticides and insecticides to prevent pre-harvest losses
Enhancing Agricultural productivity In India
The challenge is seeking affordable, accessible, easy-to-use technologies, products or services to enhance agricultural productivity in India
What’s In Store For The Selected Agritech Startups
Numerous factors will be taken into consideration while selecting the startups for the challenge. This includes problem identification, tech innovation, financial sustainability, operational scalability, market advantage, roadmap, team and unique value proposition (UVP).
Two solutions, idea stage and ready-market stage, for each problem statement, will be shortlisted under the programme. Accordingly, a total of 24 startups will be shortlisted to be a part of this challenge.
Idea stage startups selected for the challenge will get incubation support to go from idea to prototype, while the market-ready solutions will get to be part of a market access programme, aimed at the easy adoption of their innovation.
Further, the Ministry of Agriculture will also provide an opportunity for the startups to pilot their products with the government. In such cases, all the costs will be paid by the government. The mentors of this initiative will also provide expert guidance to all the startups’ founders and will help them with the pivot and B-model restructuring process. Mentors will consist of experts from Ministry of Agriculture, technology experts from Qualcomm and domain experts from Villgro.
Applications for startups will be opened after the official announcement on December 15. The last date to apply has not been confirmed yet but will probably be around mid-January 2018. For further details, the interested startups can register here.
A Perspective On The Rapidly Growing Indian Agritech Sector
India holds the record for having the second-largest agricultural land in the world. The GDP of agriculture and allied sectors in India was recorded at $244.74 Bn in FY ‘16.
At the same time, the Indian agriculture sector has lately been affected by problems like absence of an organised market structure, depleting levels of groundwater, too many middlemen and the lack of access to superior technology.
The central and state governments are proactively pursuing policies to improve farmers’ lives in India. In fact, PM Modi’s government aims to double the average farmer’s income by 2022.
But government cannot be the lone warrior and to capitalise on the opportunities present in the lucrative agritech sector, a growing number of startups are leveraging technology to improve efficiency at various levels in the market through retail, B2C and B2B marketplaces and digital agronomy platforms.
Lately, the government has also launched numerous initiatives for agritech startups. However, This is the first time the Ministry of Agriculture has taken up such an innovative approach towards crowdsourcing solutions and promoting the startup ecosystem at the same time. The Agriculture Grand Challenge is one of many initiatives the Narendra Modi-led government is working on to turn the vision of doubling farmers’ income into a reality by 2022. Going ahead, it is expected that the country’s entrepreneurs will come up with more disruptive methods to further drive the sector’s growth.