Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partners Tata Trusts to boost agri-tech ecosystem

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partners Tata Trusts to boost agri-tech ecosystem
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1 Jul, 2019

Philanthropic organisation Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Mumbai-based charitable foundation Tata Trusts said on Monday that they have joined hands to set up India Agritech Incubation Network (IAIN) at IIT Kanpur and launch the Social Alpha Quest for Agritech Innovations. 

Up to 12 innovations will be selected to be part of the first cohort of IAIN. They will receive incubation support for the next 12-24 months. The IAIN is envisioned as a network of incubators across the country aimed at promoting innovations for farmers holding small parcels of land. 

On the new programme, Purvi Mehta, head of agriculture, Asia, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “We believe Social Alpha, Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives, and IIT Kanpur will provide the right ecosystem and intensive mentorship to startups with the potential to show large-scale sustainable impact. We are hopeful that IAIN will emerge as a collaborative and responsive network that will place special emphasis on technology adoption by smallholders while building a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs to scale up their business.”

The first hub for IAIN will be set up at IIT Kanpur’s SIDBI Innovation and Incubation Centre, in collaboration with the state government of Uttar Pradesh and other entities. The hub will provide incubation services including laboratory infrastructure, venture-building resources, financial support and farmer community access. 

Over the next five years, the programme plans to support 60 enterprises with incubation facilities that will impact around 50,000 farmers. 

Access to Social Alpha’s seed investment, and IIT Kanpur’s incubation facility will also be given. Product development support including assistance with designing and prototyping, among other things, will be advanced along with mentorship by agri-business experts to help with processes such as the development of go-to-market strategies. Moreover, access to shared office space and amenities at Social Alpha or IIT Kanpur incubation centre will be provided. 

“Venture investments are gaining momentum in the agri-tech space, though they are mostly limited to Internet of Things, e-commerce and farm-to-fork logistics play,” said Manoj Kumar, head of innovation and entrepreneurship, Tata Trusts, and chief executive, Social Alpha. “Social Alpha aims to support, mentor and engage mission-driven entrepreneurs to develop solutions that will positively improve the livelihood outcomes of small and marginal farmers,” he added, speaking on what the nascent programme intends to achieve.