The challenge invites disruptive technology-driven agricultural startups and social entrepreneurs to innovate and provide tangible solutions to this intricate problem specifically focused on scalability for smallholder farmers.
DCM Shriram Foundation and Nudge Institute’s Centre for Social Innovation, with the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor (GoI), have launched an Rs 2.6 crore prize challenge, aimed at fostering innovation at the intersection of agriculture and efficient use of water. The challenge seeks to encourage leading AgTech & Social Impact Entrepreneurs to develop population scale solutions & innovations within India’s agri-water ecosystem, with massive impact on stagnant livelihood opportunities, especially for smallholder farmers.
80 per cent of India’s groundwater is used for agriculture, but 60 per cent of this is inefficient utilisation. Misaligned practices on application of nutrients and fertilisers have led to imbalance and soil degradation resulting in inefficiency in water utilisation, declining groundwater and affecting crop yields. Hence, water scarcity, non-judicious use of freshwater resources, unsustainable agricultural practices, overdependence on erratic rainfall and climate change threaten the state of the agriculture sector in India, home to over 600 million farmers.
For the upcoming DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge, The/Nudge Prize encompasses a substantial prize purse of Rs 2.6 Crore. This includes a grand prize of Rs 2 Crore for the winner, representing one of the most generous grant prizes for sustainable agricultural interventions. Additionally, a total of 60 Lakh rupees will be distributed among three other finalists who successfully cross the milestone thresholds (Rs 30/20/10 Lakh respectively).
To create unprecedented urgency & impact on this topic – The challenge is also enabling an AgWater and SHF expert ecosystem, consisting of leading market players, government departments, research Institutions & senior mentors/visionaries across India & beyond. This ecosystem will be essential to promote high potential innovators and accelerate adoption of their solutions, along with the leadership of the PSA, tasked with providing pragmatic and objective advice to the Prime Minister and the cabinet in matters of Science and Technology.
While announcing the launch, Aman Pannu, President, DCM Shriram Foundation said, “Any effort aimed at conserving water on a large scale must closely align with the needs of agriculture. Such a program would have to navigate through a complex web of factors, including weather conditions, selection of crops and varieties, yield potential, water requirements of crops, available irrigation resources, water-saving technologies, agronomic practices, agricultural extension services, accessibility of agricultural inputs, electricity availability, and numerous other variables. Additionally, policy changes that affect input pricing and agricultural produce must also be considered. Undoubtedly, creating a conducive environment for water conservation and improving water-use efficiency in agriculture is an exceedingly challenging task. In view of the same the DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge has been launched in collaboration with Nudge Institute with significant emphasis on addressing the water-related challenges in agriculture. The challenge invites disruptive technology-driven agricultural startups and social entrepreneurs to innovate and provide tangible solutions to this intricate problem specifically focused on scalability for smallholder farmers.”
Kanishka Chatterjee, Director, The/Nudge Prize added, “While lucrative solutions addressing agri-water problems have gained momentum in recent years, there has been far less vitality in affordable and accessible models for the small and marginal farmers. Their high dependence on groundwater and increased vulnerability to water stress/climatic changes, land productivity, price and market risks call for audacious problem solving. An inducement challenge like the DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge, pushes AgTech to develop, demonstrate & deploy rapid innovation for this critical problem. Innovating for efficient water utilisation in agriculture holds the potential to improve economic outcomes for over 600 million smallholder farmers across the country.”