Dr Renuka Diwan, a first-generation entrepreneur, having a doctorate and post-doctorate in plant sciences with 17 years of research experience, patents, and technology transfer. As Co-Founder and CEO of BioPrime Solutions, she focuses on developing sustainable strategies for achieving the long-term goals of the company by developing key partnerships and collaborations for rapid penetration in the market. Dr Renuka is also In charge of finance and fund-raising, focusing on building profitability with long-term growth and manages the company’s IP strategies. Renuka Diwan interacted with AgroSpectrum on the status of women entrepreneurs in the agri industry and the way forward. Edited excerpts;
How can women’s contribution in agribusiness be increased in India?
Agriculture is a notoriously male-dominated industry. From the manufacturing side – seed, feed, agri equipment, inputs to the actual growers, FOPS and lastly to the procurement side – Aggregators, Arhtiyas (middlemen) , exporters – the entire value chain has a poor representation of women. However, the sector is undergoing massive reorganisation and transformation- mostly through the integration of technology in each and every aspect in the value chain. This opens up a huge area where women can contribute in a more meaningful way and establish themselves in more leadership positions. Though corporates have traditionally engaged women in management positions in small numbers , they are making conscious efforts to change that. Startups have given women more opportunities and we see more and more women in leadership positions.
According to you, which sector of the agri industry will be more remunerative for women entrepreneurs in the next five years?
If decided, women can achieve success in every sector of the agri industry. Since women are good at science and technology, they can play an important role in integrating technology in the agri value chain. Starting from seed industry to agri supply chain, women can explore more in e-commerce, animal breeding technology, and sustainable agriculture practices.
With the use of latest technologies such as AI and IoT women can work in research and innovation in irrigation, modern farm mechanisation systems, dairy, fisheries and logistics.
What inputs are needed for the growth of women entrepreneurs in India?
While there are various factors needed for the growth of women entrepreneurs, here are some of them: Women should be given equal opportunity employment in companies, startups so that more women will be attracted towards the agri industry.
- Government and private sector should promote women in leadership positions in the organisations and companies
- In order to increase women’s contribution in agribusiness, the government should announce more benefits for women-led companies/ startups.
The government has announced various schemes to attract more women into the agri industry. Besides this, how can the private sector contribute to increasing women participation in agribusiness?
Policy level backing is required for any change to be consistent and sustainable. Government intent and backing will definitely be helpful. Government is supporting women entrepreneurs through funding, approving new agritech projects. Actual success can only be defined when the technology or product becomes commercial success. There is a huge gap between the government and entrepreneurs in the process of introducing any particular product or technology in the market. At this stage, the private sector can play an important role in commercialising the technology or product. Private sector can provide handhold support to startups to understand market needs and promote the technology or product in the market.
Government and private sector partnership will definitely pave the way for the growth of women led startups and budding women entrepreneurs. This partnership should include policy support from the government in the form of finance and incubation centres at agriculture universities for women students. Private sector can support in the process of promotion and commercialisation of technology or product in the market
How BioPrime’s biological crop inputs are helping to enhance yields without increasing carbon footprint?
Bioprime SNIPR Biologicals are making crops climate-resilient using targeted physiology modulating biomolecules. SNIPR biologicals give farmers assurance of yields despite the adverse conditions. They reduce climate- change related crop losses by 25-30 per cent, reduce the requirement of fertilisers, especially urea by 25 per cent. In the last year alone we have reduced urea consumption of 30 L kgs reducing carbon footprint by 2.88 L kg Co2 in rice. Indian rice alone needs 45 million tonnes of urea every year and adoption of such technologies could potentially lead to the reduction of carbon footprint by 89,400 tonnes of Co2 each year.
How will OmniX Bio support Indian entrepreneurs who work in the fields of agricultural biotechnology, novel farming systems, bioenergy and biomaterials?
OmniX Bio will provide venture funding, mentorship from global agrifood life sciences leaders, institutional partnerships, and business development support to access domestic and export sales channels. While all members of the Omnivore team will support OmniX Bio, a PhD life scientist will join the investment team in 2022 to oversee the initiative and help develop the agrifood life sciences ecosystem across India.
At BioPrime we are focusing on discovering fundamental aspects of plant communication, identifying new biomolecules and new modes of modulating plant responses. SNIPR and BIONEXUS enable BioPrime to develop new biologicals and radically improve existing products at a fraction of cost and time. With Omnivore joining us in this journey we are confident of building BioPrime to be a global player in Ag biotech and achieve our goal of a world where good yield is not a gamble but an assurance.
What are growth strategies and plans of the company for FY 22-23?
Bioprime is building India’s largest plant-associated microbe library. Scientists have studied the past 35 years of data and identified 60 locations for microbe collection in the first phase. Registrations of 8 products under the newly formed Biostimulants policy. Initiating studies for International Validation on the new molecules and technology. Securing Pan India distribution for the current product portfolio. Currently, we are evaluating 4 pan- India distribution agreements for 3 products with MNCs. 2 multi-product Co-development projects are underway with MNCs. We have a very strong product pipeline with products on shelf life enhancement, photosynthesis modulation, and in-plant protection – fungicides. We aim to advance these to the multi-location field testing stage.
How do you envisage the future of women entrepreneurs in the agri industry?
Women will increasingly play an important part in transforming the industry. Agriculture is ripe of disruption and this opportune time will see more and more women take leadership positions in corporates and start-ups bringing technology. Women are trying to disrupt traditional trends in agribusiness starting from seed industry to last mile delivery of agri-produce to the consumers with the help of technology.
Even the corporate sector is waking up towards providing equal opportunities to women in agribusiness. The future belongs to women in agriculture who have set out to break the glass ceiling and transform this space from the ground up. Be it as growers, SHGs/FPOs or as inventors or as entrepreneurs- leading the change from the front. In the next five years, women will emerge as leaders of the agri industry and drive the revolution in agriculture.