24th December 2020, New Delhi, IN: CISCO and The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation, in association with the Government of India, has announced the ‘CISCO Agri Challenge’ to discover ground-breaking agritech solutions that can help small and marginal farmers improve their farm production and income opportunities.
The challenge has a prize purse of ₹2 crore and it will run for a year, during which participants will receive seed funding based on their pitch and performance, admittance to communities for pilots and access to relevant research and knowledge assets that can help them improve their solutions. Winners of the challenge will be announced in February 2022.
The solutions shortlisted for the challenge will be evaluated on the basis of their potential to reach 10 million customers, long term effects on environment and social equity, including gender equity and the increase in farm profitability and outreach can they achieve.
“These might be topline solutions to aid better crop selection, improve yield and price realisation, etc as well as solutions that reduce costs of inputs, access to affordable working capital, reduce risks, improve soil quality,” said Atul Satija, CEO, The/Nudge Foundation.
The challenge will be particularly looking at AI and other deep tech based products that can enable cost-efficient and scalable gradation of crop quality; cold chain solutions that can allow small farmers to secure against price fluctuations on perishables; smart solutions to optimise use of pesticide, water and other farm inputs; information and decision support systems for weather data, crop selection and market access.
India is primarily an agrarian economy, with almost 60% of the country’s population reportedly working in the agriculture sector. “However, only 45% of Indian farms are mechanized, compared to 57% in Brazil and 95% in the US, according to the United Nations. As a result, the agriculture sector continues to be plagued by low productivity and rapidly falling profitability,” points out Harish Krishnan, managing director, Public Affairs and Strategic Engagements, CISCO India and SAARC.
Krishnan points out, the challenge not only incubates agritech startups but also brings together a powerful ecosystem of investors, domain experts, knowledge partners, and government stakeholders together.
“It is important to note that these contestants are being watched by the extensive network of Incubators and Accelerators within some of India’s most prestigious academic and research institutions,” said K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to Government of India.
The office of PSA was previously involved in creating KisanMitr – a platform that provided access to farming communities, and enabled discovery of high potential solutions and models.