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New Delhi: In an attempt to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in agriculture, the government is launching a new AGRI-UDAAN programme that will mentor startups and help them connect with potential investors.

Managed by India’s premier farm research body, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the food and agri-business accelerator programme to be launched on Friday will also help convert innovative ideas from India’s rural youth into viable businesses.

“The idea is to attract the youth from rural India and elsewhere, and train them so they can add value to the farmers’ produce," said Narendra Singh Rathore, deputy director general of agricultural education at ICAR.

Rathore added that following an intensive training lasting six months, the new start-ups will be connected to investors for funding.

“Our goal is to begin a start-up revolution in agriculture which so far has been limited to the services sector," he said.

Under the programme, start-ups will get incubation space to run their businesses and have access to research laboratories and libraries. AGRI UDAAN will also help the selected start-ups with regulatory services like company registration and environmental compliances.

In the pre-launch phase of the programme that began in 2015, 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 Hyderabad-based Inner Being, which processes locally grown and exotic millets and caters to the high-end wellness market. Another start-up, FlyBird Innovations in Bengaluru 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.

Each of these companies also managed funding between Rs60 lakh to Rs1.3 crore from corporates and venture capitalists, said an official with NARM who did not want to be named.

Following the launch of the programme on Friday, AGRI-UDAAN will reach out to agri-start-ups in several cities like Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad. The 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.

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