In a move to shift focus from service startups to agriculture stratups, the Indian government is launching a new programme AGRI-UDAAN, a food and agribusiness accelerator, to guide new startups, entrepreneurs and help them establish a connect with potential investors.
Hyderabad-based Indian Counsil of Agricultural Research (ICAR), a premier farm research organisation, will help rural youths attracted to agriculture make prosper businesses out of it.
Speaking about the programme, Narendra Singh Rathore, deputy director general of agricultural education at ICAR said that the idea is to pull youth from rural India and
train them to add value to agriculture through new innovative ideas. We want to kick off a start-up revolution in agriculture sector.
Anybody from an innovative farmer to agricultural graduate to a person with minimal educational qualification can apply for the scheme called Agri Udaan. The selected startups will get six-month training, he added.
The new start-ups, who will get incubation space to run their businesses and have access to research laboratories and libraries, will also be connected to investors. AGRI UDAAN will also help the selected start-ups with regulatory services like company registration and environmental compliances. It will reach out to agri-start-ups in several cities like Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad.
The govt programme will shortlist 40 start-ups in the first round who will pitch their ideas to a panel of evaluators. Out of these, between 8 to 12 start-ups will be selected for the final capacity building workshop. The programme will be managed by ICAR-NAARM’s technology incubator, a-IDEA along with IIM Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation.
Earlier, in 2015 during pre-launch phase of the programme, the ICAR’s National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NARM) in Hyderabad incubated several new start-ups which are now processing exotic grains, manufacturing kinetic farm machines, and developing smart irrigation systems.
The companies include Inner Being, which processes locally grown and exotic millets and caters to the high-end wellness market. Another start-up, FlyBird Innovations, which is developing smart irrigation techniques based on soil temperature, atmospheric humidity and water availability. Kinemach, a company mentored under the UDAAN programme is developing a new range of farm machinery that mimics human tasks on the field—from ploughing to weeding.
These three starups that were chosen as part of the earlier Agri Udaan in 2015 are doing very well and they have been able to go to the next level of business and have been able to raise additional funds subsequently, said K Srinivas, CEO of a IDEA.
However, the government’s rural employment programmes has unable to revive the low-income structure of rural workers. Of late, employment in the agriculture has dropped, but jobs in the services sector are seeing a rise, mentioned a report by McKinsey Global Institute.