Innovative digital technology in the service of smallholder farmers
The ICRISAT innovation Hub (iHub), a creative space where agricultural technology entrepreneurs, scientists and experts can collaborate to innovate cutting edge ideas for smallholder farmers, was inaugurated at ICRISAT-India.
“This is very important for the welfare of farmers. We have to enhance farmers’ incomes. Seventy percent of people in India are in agriculture and most of them are dependent on crop loans. I want to see farmers able to reduce their investments, increase productivity and yield with good rates, so they do not have to go for loans every year,” said Mr Pocharam Srinivas Reddy, Agriculture Minister, Telangana.
Mr KT Rama Rao, IT Minister, Telangana, talked about how technology, science and agriculture extension can help farmers. “The convergence of technology with distressed sectors like agriculture, is the key to empower our farmers and to improve productivity. Science cannot be for the sake of science and unless it changes things on the ground for the common person we cannot say that we’ve been able to make a social and economic impact.”
Mr Rama Rao highlighted that, despite several interventions from the government, agriculture remains unattractive to youngsters as the sector is non-remunerative. According to him, this is an area which agricultural and technological innovation can target.
“Entrepreneurs with passion are the ideal individuals to tackle problems using innovation and drive conversations at the intersection of agriculture, finance and IT. Promoting such intense collaborations between entrepreneurs and ICRISAT scientists is at the heart of the idea of iHub. We have already launched an International Agricultural Innovations Program with T-Hub and many agritech startups have shown interest in collaborating with us,” said Dr Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT.
In this context, Dr Bergvinson emphasized on tailoring interventions and targeting knowledge for smallholder farmers to address their ambitions and aspirations of life which will then motivate them to follow those recommendations leading to technology adaptation.
As impacts of climate change are visible in the semi-arid and arid areas, Dr Bergvinson added, “We need to use advanced analytics, cloud computing, mobile technology to support farmers make best decisions to manage risks and maximize economic opportunities.”
To enhance and strengthen the strategic vision for iHub, a high level advisory council has been set up, comprising: Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary for IT, Telangana; Anil Bhansali, Managing Director of Microsoft, India; Rama Iyer, Senior Vice President of T-Hub; Praveen Rao, Vice Chancellor of Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University; BVR Mohan Reddy, Executive Chairperson, Cyient; C Parthasarathi, Principal Secretary, Agriculture, Telangana; David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT and convener Ram Dhulipala, Lead, Digital Agriculture and Youth, ICRISAT.
The iHub spread over 10,000 sq. ft. includes a 40-seater accelerator facility. It was inaugurated by Mr Rama Rao and Mr Srinivas Reddy on 13 February.