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NEW DELHI : State-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) is working with agri-startups for developing a simple and handy foodgrain-testing equipment, to be deployed at the government-operated mandis, a senior Food Ministry official said on Wednesday.

During the process of procurement of foodgrains, the quality of grain brought by farmers to the mandis are tested against the standards fixed by the central government (Uniform specifications) following the method prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

However, except for testing of moisture contents in the grain, all other parameters are tested using manual analysis.

"This is a time-consuming process and has certain levels of subjectivity. Therefore, efforts are being made to bring in technology-based quality assessment," the official told PTI.

FCI is working with Indian agri-startups for developing a simple and handy testing equipment which can be deployed in the thousands of mandis operated by the government agencies for foodgrain procurement, he said.

This will ensure quality assessment of foodgrains -- brought to the procurement centers by farmers -- done in a quick and transparent manner without any scope for subjectivity or human intervention, he added.

According to the official, two agri-tech startups have so far come forward to develop/offer solutions.

"Pilots were run in 4 mandis (2 in Punjab and 2 in Haryana) during wheat procurement season by one of the startups working in developing solutions for mandi level quality checks," he said.

The official said that it's still a work in progress. The startups are trying to get all quality refractions measured through machines instead of human analysis.

The artificial intelligence-based software is able to identify the refractions but hasn't reached acceptable levels of accuracy so far, he said.

"Based on the experience, they are working on improvements in the equipment for further testing during the coming paddy procurement season," he added.

The government said about 853.34 lakh tonnes of paddy was procured from 73,870 purchase centres till June 25 of the 2020-21 kharif marketing season.

Similarly, 432.69 lakh tonnes of wheat was procured from 19,030 purchase centres in the 2021-22 rabi marketing season ended April.

FCI is the government nodal agency for procurement and distribution of foodgrains. FCI procures food grains along with state agencies to meet the demand of welfare schemes.

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