24) ICRISAT launches a pioneering network to promote agri-business incubators in India

The International Crops Research Institute of the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has been entrusted with “handholding and mentoring” of 10 Business Planning and Development (BPD) units by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

The BPD units will be established as part of the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) at 5 ICAR research institutes and 5 state agricultural universities, which include CIRCOT (Mumbai), IARI (New Delhi), IVRI (Izatnagar), NIRJAFT (Kolkata), CIFT (Cochin), AAU (Gujarat), JNKVV (Jabalpur), TNAU (Coimbatore), BAU (Ranchi) and CCSHAU (Hisar).

The initiative will set up a network of agri-business incubators across the country to encourage new agri-entrepreneurs, tap into a pool of commercial technologies and thereby maximize benefits to farmers. The network will provide an excellent platform to exchange ideas, share successful experiences, identify research and development areas and form future partnerships. NAIP-ICAR has invested about Rupees 40 crore for the overall program and has granted Rupees 2.3 crore to ICRISAT, considering its past records in establishing Agri-Business Incubator.

During the network launch at ICRISAT headquarters in Patancheru, Dr William D. Dar Director General ICRISAT says, “The whole world is concerned with the challenges of a burgeoning population, declining food stocks, skyrocketing food prices, degraded environments and a warming world. Harnessing the power of technology to offset the slowdown in the agriculture sector and to protect the environment is very crucial. We are happy to strengthen our ties with ICAR to create agricultural innovations that will help improve the livelihoods of the poor farmers in the semi-arid tropics.”

Business incubators are designed to effectively develop enterprises through an array of resources and services. Successful completion of a business incubation program increases the likelihood of a start-up company staying in business in the long run.

Agri-business incubators build awareness and inspire innovators to set up small and micro enterprises (SMEs) and identify and utilize local resources. It brings together different stakeholders including the scientific community, the entrepreneurs who provide goods and services and various government departments.

“While expanding the skills and knowledge of the stakeholders in agri-business development, we will also nurture start-up ventures till they find their feet and excel in their businesses,” says Dr KK Sharma, Head of Agri-Business Incubator, ICRISAT.

Underscoring the significance of nurturing grassroots rural innovations, the chief guest at the launch Padmashree Prof. Anil K. Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad says, “Please do not wait for innovators to come to you. Please seek the help of universities to scout for good innovations.” Prof Gupta had established National Innovation Foundation in 2000 to help India become an inventive and creative society, and a global leader in sustainable technologies. The launch program also saw the participation of Mr. H. K. Mittal, Advisor and Head of the National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board, which has been helping innovators and entrepreneurs in our country through business incubation for more than 20 years.

Promoting inventive agro-technologies, the network will support innovators who want to start new agri-businesses across agricultural sectors – animal husbandry, dairy, veterinary, fisheries, agriculture, and horticulture. “Through the network we would also like to raise public awareness about exciting opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs with the help of agri-business incubators,” says SM Karuppan Chetty, the Chief Operating Officer of ABI@ICRISAT.

ICRISAT’s ABI or ABI@ICRISAT, as it is better known, has successfully incubated several technologies and enterprises previously, such as the use of sweet sorghum for ethanol production, Bio Fermi BTA Fermentor, popularization and release of groundnut variety ICGV-91114, popularization of chickpea varieties JG-11 & KAK2 amongst the farmers of Andhra Pradesh, and organic farming.

The Government of India awarded ABI@ICRISAT the Best Technology Incubator Award in 2005.

About ICRISAT

ICRISAT is a nonprofit, non-political organization engaged in innovative agricultural research and sustainable development with a wide array of partners across the globe. ICRISAT's mission is to empower 600 million poor people to overcome hunger, poverty and a degraded environment in the dry tropics through better agriculture. ICRISAT belongs to the Alliance of Future Harvest Centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

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