No. 1464 29 April 2011

Pursuing the path to IMOD
Global meet highlights innovative Ready-to-Eat products, new markets

RTE (Right) The AIP team interacts with FSSAI Chairperson PI Suvrathan at the AIP ICRISAT exhibit stall. (Left) Mr Suvrathan delivering the inaugural address.

The three-day “Global Symposium on Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Foods: Opportunities for R&D, Entrepreneurship and Markets” held on 25-27 April at the Hotel Taj Banjara, Hyderabad concluded with a promise of better, healthier and safer convenience food for the consumers through R&D and more market opportunities and enhanced entrepreneurship within the food industry.

The symposium was organized by the NutriPlus Knowledge Program of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in association with ASSOCOM India and with support from the Ministry of Food Processing, Government of India.

With shifting consumer trends and changing eating patterns worldwide, the meet sought to promote RTE foods to a wider market through the transfer of technologies to entrepreneurs. It also addressed various food challenges such as meeting the demands for innovative, healthy and safe meal solutions for a busy lifestyle. The role of micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises was highlighted as vital in improving peoples’ livelihood opportunities and increasing their participation in the agro-food industry.

RTE (Left) DFRL Director Dr AS Bawa at the ICRISAT exhibit stall.
(Right) Souvenir release by DDG Hoisington with MD Raj Kapoor of Assocom India.

Tackling the issue of food safety in the Indian food industry, Mr PI Suvrathan, Chairperson of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), spoke on the new Food Safety and Standards Act and how it shall revolutionize the way food safety is perceived by the food industry and the consumers alike, in India. Highlighting the new rules and regulations under this unified act, he stressed that safety of foods is the primary responsibility of the food business operators.

“This global symposium on ready-to-eat foods is a step towards exploring new markets and creating demand for a wider diversity of higher-value foodstuffs and in reducing poverty by fostering agro-enterprises,” said ICRISAT Director General William Dar. The goals of the symposium, he added, are consistent with the Institute’s Inclusive Market-Oriented Development or IMOD strategy which focuses on helping the farming poor to access markets to increase their food supplies and incomes, and hence create a dynamic progression from subsistence towards market-oriented agriculture.

In pursuing IMOD, Dave Hoisington, ICRISAT Deputy Director General (Research), expounded on the Institute’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) where inclusive growth and innovation are the key. He pointed out that the NutriPlus Knowledge Program, one of the three components of AIP, aims to engage with the public sector, the private sector food industry, and advanced food research institutes to promote the cause of smallholder farmers of the semi-arid tropics. The symposium, he added, showcases a number of value-added, innovative RTE healthy food products, such as healthy snacks from sorghum and pearl millet and refreshing drinks from sweet sorghum juice, developed through R&D using ICRISAT mandate crops.

Dr AS Bawa, Director of the Mysore-based Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL), expressed interest in collaborating with ICRISAT in exploring the Institute’s mandate crops to develop healthy food products. Representatives from the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, and Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP), Hyderabad; and National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal, Haryana also expressed interest in collaborating with ICRISAT.

The meet introduced a number of innovative healthy food products and a range of technologies developed by different companies and research institutes. Extruded healthy snacks made from sorghum and pearl millet -“Pops” and “Krunchees’’, and a sweet sorghum-based drink rich in iron and calcium-“Sweet Sorghum Refresh” were displayed at the ICRISAT stall. Mini MRE (Meals-Ready-to-Eat) food products with low calories and Energy-Dense Bars from DFRL, Ready-meal solutions and microwave-based hot food vending machine, health and wellness drinks targeted at women and children, cooking oil spray, probiotic yogurt based on pearl millet and barley, neutraceutical products based on fenugreek and phytosterol, all natural ice cream, and food enzymes for RTE foods and new natural food colours and flavours were some of the innovative concepts and products unveiled at the symposium.   

During the three-day deliberation, renowned speakers from the public sector, multinational and domestic food companies, entrepreneurs, and food research and consultancy organizations delivered presentations in various areas such as research and development, marketing, entrepreneurial opportunities and success stories in the RTE foods segment. The private sector was represented in the technical sessions by TetraPak India (P) Ltd, MTR Foods Ltd, Parry Neutraceuticals, Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd (Agri Food Division), Clextral- France, Cryovac-Australia, Mane India Private Ltd, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare India Ltd, Prathista Industries Ltd, Dairy Ice Cream and Frozen Foods Ltd, Sresta Natural Bio Products Ltd, Synthite Ltd and BR Cooking Spray.

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Capacity building on climate-change ready crop
ICRISAT hosts international course on pearl millet improvement and seed production

Course participants

“Capacity building is an important component in harnessing the full potential of latest technology to achieve greater crop productivity,” said Dryland Cereals RPD Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, speaking on behalf of DG William Dar, at the opening of the second international training course on Pearl Millet Improvement and Seed Production held in Patancheru on 25 April.

The course, which will conclude on 3 May, aims to train young scientists and those new to pearl millet improvement on the theory and practice of pearl millet breeding methods with special reference to biotic and abiotic stresses, seed production, processing and marketing, alternative uses and commercialization, and methods of conducting good trials.

As emphasized by O Riera-Lizarazu, pearl millet is a climate-change ready crop which is expected to expand to new ecologies in the coming era. The course is intended to contribute to ICRISAT’s mission of improving food security, ending poverty and sustaining the environment through research for development and purposeful partnerships.

Course coordinator KN Rai highlighted the immense shortage of plant breeders in the fast emerging crop improvement market, and opined that the training was organized to strengthen the capacity of partner institutions involved in pearl millet improvement. He added that the Institute’s pearl millet breeding materials are available as summer-sown crop at the ICRISAT field, and that participants should use this opportunity to select materials based on their regional needs.

As many as 31 participants from Niger (3), Nigeria (2), Mali (2), 1 each from Burkina Faso, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia, and 20 from India (11 from the public and 9 from the private sectors) are attending this interactive lecture-cum-field demonstration-oriented course. Besides ICRISAT scientists, experts from other public and private institutions are serving as resource persons, notable among them being OP Yadav, Project Coordinator, All India Coordinated Pearl Millet Improvement Project; Abdullah Dakheel from ICBA, Dubai; IS Khairwal; RS Mahala; Paresh Verma; Michael Blummel; and others from central and state institutes.

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ICRISAT, USAID meet to strengthen partnership

USAID-ICRISAT The USAID team led by Dr Robbins (extreme right) meets with DDG Dave Hoisington and other ICRISAT senior staff.

Aiming to further enhance an already strong partnership, ICRISAT-Patancheru hosted a visit by USAID-India on 27 April. The team composed of Dr Gary Robbins, Director of Food Security, and colleagues Srivalli Krishnan and Ed Keturakis, together with K Srimali and Senthil Kumar of the US Consulate-Hyderabad, spent Wednesday morning learning about ICRISAT, especially its work in India that has application to Africa.

Dr Robbins participated in the recent India-Africa roundtable discussion during the GB meeting in Delhi last March. Upon invitation from RPM Director Peter Ninnes, the visit to Patancheru was arranged to discuss ways for USAID-India to partner with ICRISAT in pursuing the exciting new initiative of south-south collaboration (IS-SI) launched during the GB meeting.

“ICRISAT is a world class organization and its work on scientific innovations and technologies to increase farmers’ income is very similar to USAID’s food security strategy in India. The Institute’s facilities are outstanding and its successes are impressive,” said Dr Robbins during the visit. He added that ICRISAT’s work on intensive home gardens in Africa will help women not only increase their family’s nutritional status but also provide them with extra income.

The team met with DDG Dave Hoisington, RPM Director Peter Ninnes and other senior staff members to discuss ongoing partnerships as well as future areas of collaboration between ICRISAT and USAID.

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UPLB-ZRC Director receives William D Dar Research Leadership Award

UPLB-ZRCDr Supangco (4th from left) receives the WD Dar Research Leadership Award medal of honor and cash prize from Mr Prabhakar Reddy, FETS Program Leader, representing DG Dar.

Dr Enrico P Supangco, Vice Chancellor of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and CHED UPLB Zonal Research Center (ZRC) Director received the William D Dar Research Leadership Award from the Philippine Association of Research Managers, Inc. (PHILARM) during its 21st National Convention at the Cavite State University, Indang, Cavite, Philippines, on 14 April. Dr Supangco was recognized by PHILARM for his exemplary leadership of UPLB’s R&D programs.

The WD Dar Research Leadership Award recognizes the vital contributions of research leaders in developing R&D institutions and formulating workable R&D policies. PHILARM is a private, non-stock, non-profit, professional organization dedicated to the promotion and enhancement of the role of managers in improving and sustaining productivity in research.

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IFAD seeks strategic partnership with ICRISAT in the Asia-Pacific region

IFAD - ICRISAT CLL Gowda presents the ICRISAT Strategic Plan to 2020 to Dr Ashok Seth (center) and Dr Ganesh Thapa (right) of IFAD.

Two officials from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Dr Ganesh Thapa, Regional Economist, Asia-Pacific Division and Dr Ashok Seth, Consultant, visited ICRISAT on 25 April to explore possibilities of developing strategic partnership with ICRISAT in the Asia-Pacific region.

Strategic partnership allows for long-term planning and implementation of grant projects in the region. During the meeting, Grain Legumes RPD CLL Gowda presented ICRISAT’s Strategic Plan to 2020, while Dr Thapa presented IFAD’s strategic priorities for the Asia-Pacific region.

As both organizations have similar missions and priorities, a strategic partnership will fortify research efforts that will culminate in poverty alleviation in the region. During the meeting, an earlier submitted concept note titled “Resilient cropping systems: Enhancing sustainability and system(s) productivity through introduction of efficient and productive legumes” was also discussed. Dr Seth presented some of his thoughts on the IFAD-ICRISAT partnership and suggested strategic placement of grant funding to maximize returns in contributing towards the mission and priorities of both institutions.

The new project, Dr Seth added, should focus on development and validation of options for crop management technologies, provision for technical innovation services, and strategic support to project partners including IFAD loan projects, out- and up-scaling of innovations and knowledge management, and project coordination, monitoring and evaluation.

The suggested partner countries include India, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam. ICRISAT was represented in the meeting by DDG Dave Hoisington, CLL Gowda, SN Nigam, PS Birthal, GV Ranga Rao and P Janila.

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Parliament recognizes ICRISAT’s work on watershed management

The significant contribution of ICRISAT as an international institute directly impacting on the livelihood and well-being of the people of India was recognized by the committee members and department secretaries in a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on land and water resources held on 28 April at the Parliament Building, New Delhi.

The committee provides guidelines at the national level on the funding, documentation, management and use of natural resources in the country. ICRISAT was represented in the meeting by Dr SP Wani and Mr Prabhakar Pathak who provided relevant information regarding the Institute’s work on integrated watershed management and other research for development areas, which was very much appreciated by the parliamentary members. Several issues related to land and water resources like documentation, management, use and funding, and functioning of various departments were discussed during the meeting.

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Fostering agribusiness partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa

SSA SM Karuppanchetty engaging delegates during the agribusiness meet.

The inaugural meet of the Universities, Business and Research
in Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN) was held at the Forum of Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Accra on
19-20 April.

SM Karuppanchetty of ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program was the key invitee to the program that hosted 40 participants from the 12 prospective Agribusiness Innovation Incubation Consortia (AIIC) from across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the project management team and the donor – the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).

The meet provided a unique opportunity to initiate strategic partnership between UniBRAIN and ICRISAT, laying the foundation for promoting agribusiness and business incubation in SSA. It aimed to create an opportunity for key stakeholders in the UniBRAIN program of FARA to exchange experiences and information and thus forge partnerships for the advancement of agribusiness innovation in Africa.

UniBRAIN is the prime initiative of FARA in partnership with the Agro-forestry and Natural Resources Education (ANRE), African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and Pan African Agri-business and Agro Industry Consortium (PanAAC) funded by DANIDA. UniBRAIN’s value proposition is to promote innovation and produce graduates with entrepreneurial and business skills and research-based knowledge relevant to the development of African agriculture and agribusinesses.

This collaborative initiative is expected to boost the agribusiness and farming community in Africa. ABI-ICRISAT will facilitate establishment of agribusiness incubation systems in the continent, which will nurture innovations in agriculture, develop and commercialize technologies impacting farmers and generate agri-preneurs. The partnership will also create value-chain opportunities in all verticals of agriculture and span 12 SSA countries.

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Campus interviews for village dynamics project
ICRISAT’s HR and MIP join forces with NARS

Gujarat Focus group meeting at a village in Gujarat.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)-supported ICRISAT-NCAP-IRRI Project on “Village Dynamics in South Asia” mainly relies on its village-level staff – Residential Field Investigators based in 42 target villages spread across India and Bangladesh – in eliciting reliable quality data from households for generating longitudinal panel data. In semi-arid tropical India, a residential field investigator has been placed in each of the 18 villages spread across the five states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

Retaining these staff has been challenging, given the difficulties involved in field level working conditions as well as the availability of alternative employment opportunities. Competent candidates proficient in local languages as required are hardly participating in the recruitment process at ICRISAT headquarters in sufficient numbers.

Under these circumstances, for the first time, HR ventured to study the field level working conditions for a clearer understanding of the role and challenges involved in the Field Investigator positions, and conducted campus interviews to recruit competent staff through the standard competitive process. With the encouragement and support from MIP RPD Cynthia Bantilan, a team comprising of AJ Rama Rao from HR, and VR Kiresur, VK Chopde and Y Mohan Rao from RP-MIP visited Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (JNKVV), Jabalpur and JAU, Junagadh to interview and select the most suitable staff for the project. Campus interviews were held for the vacant positions of Field Investigator at JNKVV, Jabalpur and JAU, Junagadh. Also included in the selection committee were National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) partners, PK Awasthi and Alpana Singh of JNKVV and RL Shiyani and Chetana Mandavia from JAU.

Prior to the campus interviews, the ICRISAT Team visited Rampura Kalan and Papada villages in Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh and Karamdi Chingariya and Makhiyala villages in Junagadh district of Gujarat to understand the local working conditions of the project staff and to interact with the farmers.

Great enthusiasm and competition among the eligible candidates were observed. This novel method of recruiting field investigators has yielded excellent results in terms of getting the most suitable candidates.

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ICRISAT Niamey bids farewell to Dov Pasternak


After 10 years as Principal Scientist-Consultant at ICRISAT Niamey, Dov Pasternak bid adieu to the Institute on 16 April. Dov joined ICRISAT in 2001. While in Niger, he was instrumental in the success of the Bio Reclamation of Degraded Land (BDL) program designed to help women gain access to land property, as well as in the success of the African Market Garden. In addition to his involvement in technology development, he developed a new education system for village primary schools called the “Farmers of the future.” He also pioneered the use of saline water in irrigation.

In a farewell cocktail dinner in his honor, WCA Director Farid Waliyar thanked Dov for his commitment and passion for Africa, highlighting his work in achieving the institute’s objectives in the region towards improving the lives of smallholder farmers.

ICRISAT wishes Dov and his family the best of luck in all their future endeavors!

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