26) ICRISATs Agri-Business Incubator attracts clients (25 March 2004)

The Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has launched its commercial operations with the signing of collaborative agreements with two private-sector clients. A few other projects are in the pipeline.

During the ABI Board of Governors meeting held recently at ICRISAT, Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, said that these agreements mark a milestone for the ABI, a collaborative venture between ICRISAT and the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

“The ABI is an important institution for partnering with the private-sector companies, where entrepreneurs can develop commercial ventures using the ICRISAT technologies,” he added.

Rusni Distilleries Pvt. Ltd., the first client for ABI, will collaborate for generating extra-neutral alcohol (ENA), a raw material for producing potable alcohol, and fuel alcohol that can be added to petrol from sweet sorghum varieties developed by ICRISAT. The collaboration will generate better value for sorghum, a crop of the semi-arid regions, through its use for generating alcohol. ICRISAT will help further increase the sugar content in the sorghum varieties.

The ABI's second client, Bioseed Research India Pvt. Ltd., a part of the DCM Shriram Group, will work on research projects related to the application of agricultural biotechnology for the development of superior cotton hybrids. ICRISAT will provide technology assistance for using molecular markers, gene marker identification, and genetic transformation. Further, the seed company can make use of ICRISAT's greenhouse space, biotechnology labs and agricultural land for testing of their material.

Some of the other technologies under consideration for incubation include generation of biodiesel from jatropha and pongamia, sugar production from sweet sorghum, product development from hybrid paddy, and development of biopesticides.

The ABI was visualized by ICRISAT and the Department of science & technology, government of India as a national facility enabling entrepreneurs wishing to incubate agri-business technologies to tap ICRISAT's scientific resources, hire working space and share scientific equipment. ICRISAT's national partners can also use the facilities to transfer and commercialize their technologies to potential entrepreneurs. It is hoped that within the period that an entrepreneur spends with the ABI, the technology can be incubated to a stage where investment can be made for commercial production.

Incubation of technologies is the critical stage where the technology comes out of the laboratories and it is tested for performance, market acceptability and viability before scaling up to larger commercial projects. ABI can play an important role in assistance with the commercialization of agri-technologies, which should result in creation of new job opportunities besides taking the technologies to resource-poor farmers.

For further information, contact Dr KK Sharma at k(dot)sharma(at)cgiar(dot)org.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.