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These budding innovators are the new champions of the Agri sector

The Cisco Agri Challenge encourages agri startups to innovate farmer-centric solutions and improve outcomes in Indian agriculture. Winners were chosen from a pool of 844 applicants.Premium
The Cisco Agri Challenge encourages agri startups to innovate farmer-centric solutions and improve outcomes in Indian agriculture. Winners were chosen from a pool of 844 applicants.

With an aim to mobilise agri startups to innovate farmer-centric solutions and improve the economic, social, and environmental outcomes in Indian agriculture, Cisco Agri Challenge was launched in December, 2020, by The Nudge Centre for Social Innovation in partnership with Cisco and the Office of the PSA, Govt. of India.

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While the world continues to recover from the economic upheaval brought on by the pandemic, it's often the marginalized communities like small farmers whose already challenging lives come to a standstill. Experts are very vocal to point that an eminent solution to decrease farmer distress could be increasing income and reducing risks. Yet, the productivity and profitability of the sector remains shallow.

With an aim to mobilise agri startups to innovate farmer-centric solutions and improve the economic, social, and environmental outcomes in Indian agriculture, Cisco Agri Challenge was launched in December, 2020, by The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation in partnership with Cisco and the Office of the PSA, Govt. of India.

From a pool of 844 applications, 25 made it to the list of semi-finalists. The Challenge ran for 16 months where the selected organizations received an ecosystem of support including milestone grants, access to investors, mentors, knowledge and technology partners, and policy circle advisers. The eminent circle of partners and experts included Mark Kahn (Managing Partner, Omnivore), Anil Kumar SG(Founder & CEO, Samunnati), Samit Ghosh (Founder, Ujjivan) and Shamika Ravi (Non-resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution).

After careful screening and evaluation, 8 remarkable entries then emerged as finalists. The finalists consisted of diverse innovative ideas, ranging from high tech solutions to developing organic formulas, all while delivering the common goal of positive economic, social, and environmental value.

The culmination of the Cisco Agri Challenge saw the announcement of the winners on 26th April, 2022. They were identified by a grand jury aided by the Monitoring and Evaluation exercise conducted by the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA). Shri Manoj Ahuja, Agriculture Secretary, Government of India, presented the awards.

S4S technologies, rose up as the winner of the challenge and took home a prize money of INR 1 crore. The organization is a food preservation company powered by UN award-winning solar drying technology. The majority of farmers in India face the issue of proper storage post-harvesting period, as a result of which their crop isn’t sold and eventually deteriorates. S4S technologies accept grade B and grade C produce from farmers to produce preservative-free, dehydrated food having one year of shelf life.

BioPrime seized the runner-up title and took home INR 25 lakhs. It offers relief to farmers, struggling with crop loss, temperature fluctuations, drought, resilient insects and diseases. To achieve this they are developing effective and affordable Agri biologicals with time-proven biomolecules, life-friendly chemistry, smart material and energy use.

From left to right in image: Sudha Srinivasan (CEO, The/Nudge CSI), Renuka Karandikar (Bioprime Agrisolutions), Shri Manoj Ahuja (Agriculture Secretary, GoI), Nidhi Pant (S4S Technologies), Harish Krishnan (MD & Chief Policy Officer, Cisco India and SAARC)
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From left to right in image: Sudha Srinivasan (CEO, The/Nudge CSI), Renuka Karandikar (Bioprime Agrisolutions), Shri Manoj Ahuja (Agriculture Secretary, GoI), Nidhi Pant (S4S Technologies), Harish Krishnan (MD & Chief Policy Officer, Cisco India and SAARC)

While the two winners took the center stage, the other six finalists did not fail to impress the jury. In the journey of 16 months, they too received access to a great ecosystem.

Similar to S4S, other finalists like Takachar and Ecozen work on intriguing post harvest innovations. Takachar is on a mission to fight climate change by transforming massive amounts of waste biomass into marketable products around the world. They have developed and patented the design of small-scale, low-cost, portable equipment to convert waste biomass into solid fuel, fertilizer, and other specialty chemicals. Ecozen is innovating at the intersection of clean-tech & internet of things. They aspire to disrupt the way perishables are handled across the value chain and build an intelligent and completely automated after-sales service solution in the long run.

To change the way farmers practice farming, some finalists used high tech solutions like blockchain and artificial intelligence. Whrrl uses blockchain to reduce banking frauds to facilitate easy access to finance for farmers in a real-time environment. EmerTech Innovations, through their blockchain platform AgroTrust, makes it easier for the farmers to track their produce and income. Dvara E-Dairy leverages new-age technologies, like Machine Learning, and Internet of Things (IoT) to digitally assess the cattle and provide cattle specific recommendations.

Keeping in consideration the peculiar needs small and marginal farmers have, Khethworks uses a solar pump that is small enough to carry with a flow rate big enough to satisfy marginal farmers’ preferences at a bankable price point that does not depend on subsidy.

The finalists have already made a mark in the industry by raising over 30 Crores from investors. In addition, many of them have won international awards and accolades. Takachar won the prestigious Earthshot Prize and S4S Technologies was recently awarded the Zayed Sustainability Prize.

This challenge has not only produced two winners, but has also sparked interest among entrepreneurs to invest time and energy to look out for solutions to enhance the profitability of small scale farmers. Solutions that address this pressing need and drive farmer-centric innovations, have the potential to impact millions of lives and create a positive impact on Indian agriculture.

Disclaimer: This article is a paid publication and does not have journalistic/editorial involvement of Hindustan Times. Hindustan Times does not endorse/subscribe to the content(s) of the article/advertisement and/or view(s) expressed herein. Hindustan Times shall not in any manner, be responsible and/or liable in any manner whatsoever for all that is stated in the article and/or also with regard to the view(s), opinion(s), announcement(s), declaration(s), affirmation(s) etc., stated/featured in the same.

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