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Opportunities to strengthen agribusiness

Opportunities opened this week for new models to work with private industry. I spent the day at a Confederation of Indian Industry event and was inspired by the success of a range of Indian agribusiness people and their ideas for partnership to ensure research leads to innovations and adoption. I can see these new connections are going to bring about a new way for us to do business and achieve our mission.

This was all started thanks to attending the Confederation’s Agri Technology and Mechanization Summit in New Delhi. Leaders in agribusiness discussed not only mechanization but the shift to innovation and adoption and especially the roles private industry, researchers and government should take in this regard.

Issues from how to make precision farming relevant to the small holder farmer to challenges around commercialization and approaches needed to ensure adoption were discussed. Mr Anthony Cherukara, VP (Strategy) and Head of Agri & Allied Business, Kirloskar Oil Engines (KOEL) noted that 64% of land holdings in India do not have a tractor or any similar mechanical devise. I also spoke on an area I am leading within ICRISAT on digital agriculture. Here is a part of my presentation and some key points

It was interesting to hear high level business people and government officials all speak out very strongly about the urgent need to attract youth back to agriculture. The issue resurfaced in every panel discussion and mechanization and digital agriculture were seen as critical parts of the solution.

Just a splash of some the other interesting comments made at the event included…

Mr Siraj Hussain, Secretary, Dept of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, stressed the need to focus on solutions for small holder farming in India which have an average farm size of 1.16ha compared to USA where it is 170ha; and it is still shrinking and predicted to be 0.24 ha by 2050.

Mr Ravindra Kumar, Managing Director, SAS Motors Ltd mentioned micro-mechanization being needed to target small holder farmers.

The approach to innovation and the need for startups not just in IT but in agriculture was highlighted by Mr Salil Ginghal.

This event was also used to also launch NAVI – the Network of Agri-startups, Venture Capitalists and Incubators. ICRISAT set up its Agribusiness area 13 years ago and as part of this venture run an agribusiness incubator.  We have helped the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) set up 23 other agribusiness incubators as well as now having set up 8 in Africa. The more we can all contribute to strengthening agribusiness the more we can strengthen the whole value chain with demand driven innovation.

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