No. 1390 27 November 2009

ICRISAT and ICAR launch network to promote agri-business incubators in India

participants of agri-business incubators program Dr Dar with dignitaries and participants of the launching program..

The apex body of agricultural research in India, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has entrusted ICRISAT with the “handholding and mentoring” of 10 Business Planning and Development (BPD) units.

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 Central Institute for Research on Cotton Technology (Mumbai), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (New Delhi), Indian Veterinary Research Institute (Izatnagar), National Institute Research Jute Allied Fiber Technology, (Kolkata), Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (Cochin), Anand Agricultural University (Gujarat), Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya (Jabalpur), Tamilnadu Agricultural University (Coimbatore), Birsa Agricultural University (Ranchi) and Chaudhary Charan Singh Agricultural University (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 $8 million for the overall program and has granted $460,000 to ICRISAT, considering its past records in establishing the Agri-Business Incubator (ABI).

Agri-business network launch Dr Dar launching the agri-business network along with other dignitaries..

During the network launch at Patancheru on 25 November, Director General Dr William Dar said, “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 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,” KK Sharma, Head of Agri-Business Incubator, added.

Underscoring the significance of nurturing grassroots rural innovations, the chief guest at the launch, Anil K Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, said “Please do not wait for innovators to come to you. Please seek the help of universities to scout for good innovations.” He had established the National Innovation Foundation in 2000 to help India become an inventive and creative society, and a global leader in sustainable technologies. Prof Gupta also stressed that new businesses can help disseminate customized scientific knowledge to farmers.

The launch program also saw the participation of H K Mittal, Advisor and Head of the National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board, which has been helping Indian innovators and entrepreneurs through business incubation for more than 20 years. He said, “Business incubation is only 5% technology. The remaining includes aspects such as entrepreneurial skills, risk-taking ability, and access to finances and infrastructure.”

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,” said 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 among farmers of Andhra Pradesh, and organic farming. The Government of India awarded ABI@ICRISAT the Best Technology Incubator Award in 2005.

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Tropical legumes for food security

The enormous potential of legumes is yet to be tapped to improve the food security, nutrition and incomes of small farmers in drought-prone sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This observation was made by Director General William Dar, through his message read out at the closing session of Tropical Legumes II (TL II), second annual review and planning meeting, held in Bamako, Mali on 20 November.

TL-II participants DDG-R Dave Hoisington with participants of TL II second annual review meeting.

In his closing remarks, Dr Dar said, “The goal of developing a sustainable system for tropical legumes can be achieved, for which I seek your support. A speedy release is essential to get the promising varieties out to the farmers. Donor support would be crucial to expand the use of improved technologies.”

The five-day review meeting of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)-funded project was officially launched by Mousa Sidibé, representing the Minister of Agriculture of the Government of Mali, who thanked ICRISAT for choosing Bamako as the meeting venue. He stated that the Government of Mali gives high priority to tropical legumes as they can improve food security, generate more income and improve human nutrition and soil health. He further said that the TL II project is in line with the agricultural development agenda of his country.

Presentations were made on the progress of the project over the last two years, the lessons learnt, and the vision for the second phase of TL II. Work plans for the third year, which were developed during regional planning meetings, were also presented and discussed. Posters and sample of seed packets of improved varieties were demonstrated.

Seventy participants from partner centers, development agencies, donor organizations, related projects supported by the BMGF, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the private sector and NGOs took part.

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Hari D Upadhyaya honored

Hari Upadhyaya Dr Dar and CLL Gowda congratulating Hari Upadhyaya on his achievement.

Hari D Upadhyaya, Principal Scientist and Head, Genebank was honored as a Fellow of the prestigious Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) on 3 November. This honor was conferred upon him at the annual meetings of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America at Pittsburgh, USA. Hari Upadhyaya is one of the few scientists to have received this recognition.

The felicitation function was held in ‘Sprit of Pittsburgh’ Ball Room of the Convention Center, where Dr Ken Quesenberry, President of CSSA honored Hari Upadhyaya for his outstanding research that reflects a gamut of high quality basic, strategic and applied study. Hari Upadhyaya’s seminal strategy of selecting ‘mini-core’ germplasm is now an International Public Good and has captured the imagination of scientists around the world as a gateway to exploit the diversity in germplasm collections.

Using the mini-core approach, Upadhyaya has identified genetically-diverse and agronomically superior parental lines having resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. He has also identified superior agronomic traits, which can be used by plant breeders to develop high-yielding broad-based cultivars. Upadhyaya is now a fellow of two societies – Crop Science Society of America and American Society of Agronomy.He has developed a large number of early-maturing groundnut breeding lines, which are resistant to diseases and aflatoxin contamination. Several of these lines had a desirable combination of traits such as resistance to foliar diseases and fresh seed dormancy. Some of these lines have been released in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.

His genetic studies on resistance to wilt in chickpea provided the scientific basis for breeding wilt-resistant cultivars at ICRISAT and elsewhere. The studies were also responsible for ICRISAT winning the King Baudouin Award in 2002. Similarly, genetic studies on traits of adaptation, productivity, and quality in peanuts have contributed significantly to the successful breeding of early-maturing peanut cultivars. Upadhyaya uses wild relatives as a source of noble variation and transfers the desirable genes to the cultivated groundnut, chickpea, and pigeonpea through pre-breeding.

Director General Dr William Dar and CLL Gowda, Global Theme Leader Crop Improvement congratulated Dr Upadhyaya on this achievement.

Team ICRISAT congratulates Hari Upadhyaya on this exceptional recognition.


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ASP partner wins top business awards

Nandan Biomatrics Limited, partner in NutriPlus, Agri-Science Park @ ICRISAT (ASP) has won two prestigious business awards, the Emerging India Awards 2009 FMCG, Food & Agri Business Award and the Green Business Award of the Year 2009 for environmental protection. Nandan Biomatrics competed with a large number of enterprises vying for this coveted award and was chosen after a robust three-phase methodology. The awards were given by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on 19 November in New Delhi.

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Doordarshan interviews DG on climate change

Dr Dar
Dr Dar responding to the scribe’s question.

In an interview with Indian national television Doordarshan on wide ranging issues including climate change on 26 November, Dr Dar pointed out that agriculture also significantly contributes to green house emissions.

Answering a question on the possible outcome of the UN Conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Dr Dar said that he is optimistic about more funding for innovative adaptation technologies to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Elaborating on the roadmap for ICRISAT, Dr Dar said that requirement for food grains could double with increase in population estimated to be 9 billion by 2050. He added, “this is possible by investing more in agriculture so that the large gap in productivity could be filled in at the earliest.”

Responding to a question on replicating the successful Kothapally watershed project, Dr Dar said that almost 350 similar watersheds have been set up all over the country. However, he cautioned that the model requires a lot of pre-project spade work such as social-mobilization.

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ICRISAT at the arid zone conference in Jodhpur

The Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur, India is organizing an international conference on Nurturing Arid Zones for People and the Environment: Issues and Agenda for the 21st Century from November 24 to 28 to commemorate its golden jubilee (1959-2009). ICRISAT is a sponsorer of the conference.

A Ashok Kumar
A Ashok Kumar felicitated at the international conference in Jodhpur.

A Ashok Kumar, sorghum breeder at Patancheru represented ICRISAT at the conference and made a presentation on Coping with climate change effects in the dryland tropics, co-authored by CLL Gowda. The presentation covered areas such as climate change adaptation, the impact of climate change on the distribution of semi-arid tropics, possible reduction in the length of growing period (LGP) and the measures to overcome the reduction in LGP and productivity changes in different crops in different countries. It also explained the “hypothesis of hope” depicting the opportunities for increasing productivity using a combination of management practices.

Raj Paroda, Executive Secretary, Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research was the chief guest at the inaugural function. Representatives from FAO, ICARDA, UNESCO and more than 500 scientists from different parts of the world attended the conference.

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