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Saturday / April 20. 2024

Akhilesh Jain, Co- Founder Agrotech Risk Private Ltd shares his views on agritech sector in India with AgroSpectrum.

Agrotech Risk Pvt. Ltd.- Agrotech India, an agfintech firm in India, provides creative solutions for all agricultural challenges. It is a joint venture between Trinity League India Limited and Ctrl2Go. Its forte is the use of cutting-edge technology for data processing and exchange as well as automation. To communicate this data to its customers, it employs its own CLASS software. The company provides software solutions for agritech and agfintech from start to finish. Akhilesh Jain, Co- Founder Agrotech Risk Private Ltd shares his views on agritech sector in India with AgroSpectrum. Edited Excepts:

How Agrotech India is contributing to the agritech landscape in India?

Agrotech India (Agrotech Risk Pvt. Ltd.), a one-of-a-kind global agfintech company based in India, provides innovative solutions for all of the difficulties that are faced in the agricultural sector. Trinity League India Limited and Ctrl2Go have collaborated on this project to form a joint venture. Utilising cutting-edge technology for the purpose of data processing and exchange, in addition to automation, is one of its strongest points. In spite of the numerous agricultural problems that are affecting India, Agrotech India stands head and shoulders above the competition as a result of the cutting-edge technological knowledge and products that it offers. For the purpose of conveying this information to its clientele, it utilises its very own CLASS software. In addition to offering software solutions for agritech and agfintech operations from beginning to end, the company also offers drone services to assist with any issues that may arise.

We provide a one-of-a-kind service that is more than ninety percent accurate for major crops, and it is called Crop Yield Estimation (both before and after harvesting). Traders are provided with assistance in the planning of in-time yield buy volumes and additional logistics resources by the service. Additionally, it assists the farmers in increasing the potential output and revenue of their farms. Through the use of our AgfinTech software, we not only offer technical aid to farmers, but we also assist them in loan acquisition. It comes with a farm-level score system that is integrated right in. The use of this system makes it possible to keep track of all the financial matters that are associated with a certain farm and farmer, which enables the farmer to make investments that are both intelligent and decisive.

What challenges are the agritech startup companies facing in the Indian market?

Connectivity and digital literacy are two issues that frequently prove difficult to overcome in rural places. AgriTech entrepreneurs have a responsibility to address these difficulties in order to guarantee that their solutions are accessible to farmers located in rural areas, hence promoting inclusivity in the use of technology. Given that AgriTech platforms are responsible for the collection and analysis of enormous volumes of data, protecting the confidentiality and safety of this information is a significant concern. For the purpose of safeguarding sensitive farmer data, startups are required to deploy stringent cybersecurity safeguards. The agricultural infrastructure is out of date, which presents a challenge. Inadequate storage facilities, transportation bottlenecks, and access to reliable electricity are some of the hurdles that agritech businesses need to overcome in order to facilitate the smooth integration of technology.

The adoption of new technologies by farmers is of the utmost importance. Startups in the agritechnology industry confront the difficulty of overcoming old traditions and ensuring that farmers are taught about the benefits of embracing digital technologies, addressing scepticism, and pushing solutions that are user-friendly.

What are the opportunities for Indian agritech startups in the global agriculture market?

Companies should prioritise the local market at the moment since it has a lot of promise on its own. According to McKinsey and Company, India’s agricultural sector is expected to quadruple its contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030. Supply of agricultural inputs, production and transformation of agricultural products, and distribution to end users are all parts of the full value chain that makes up the agribusiness ecosystem. As a result of factors such increasing urbanisation, dietary diversity, shifting consumer tastes, and the proliferation of food markets, this ecosystem has grown to encompass e-commerce and hyperlocal. Agritech in India is booming, thanks to advances from established businesses along the value chain that have embraced digital tools like “super apps” to newer businesses like “Agri fintechs” and massive tech conglomerates. In India, agri-startups tend to congregate in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka as well as in the NCR of Delhi. The agricultural value chain, however, is still highly fragmented and disorganised, with many intermediaries and middlemen present at various levels.

What inputs are required for the growth of the agritech sector in India?

Unlocking new opportunities at every stage of the value chain extends beyond the core agritech industry. Trading and auction platforms are believed to transact over $8 billion worth of product, according to statistics from an Avendus analysis.

The goal of farm gate warehousing is to oversee agri-commodities valued above $10 billion. Agri fintech is anticipated to enable loan disbursals of more than $3 billion, while quality evaluation is anticipated to cover a GMV of $5 billion worth of produce.

At every point along the value chain, agritech companies are shaking up the conventional wisdom about farming. Data analytics and ML, for example, are key to raising output quality. By giving them access to up-to-the-minute information on the prices of inputs and outputs, platforms and data-driven solutions for price transparency empower farmers.

An increasing amount of money is flowing into the agritech business, which is a sign of how confident investors are in this area. Despite financial winter and macro headwinds, the agritech sector managed to secure over $1.1 billion in 46 acquisitions by 2022, up from $187 million in 19 deals in 2018. Roughly eight transactions totalling $161 million have occurred throughout the nation thus far in 2023’s first half.

What are the growth strategies and plans of the company for FY 24-25?

For the purpose of catering to a larger market and meeting a variety of requirements within the agricultural sector, it is recommended that the range of agrotech products and services be expanded. Possible examples of this might include the introduction of new crop protection systems, technologies for precision farming, or agricultural Internet of Things devices. The demand for agricultural products, the regulatory environment, and the level of competition are some of the elements that should be considered when identifying new geographic markets for expansion, whether they are domestic or international. In order to accomplish this, it may be necessary to build partnerships or distribution channels in novel regions. Invest resources in research and development in order to improve already existing items, come up with creative ideas, and maintain a competitive advantage over other businesses. For the purpose of crop development, this may involve making investments in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, or genetic engineering. 

Create more cutting-edge risk management solutions that are specifically adapted to meet the requirements of agricultural businesses, financial institutions, and farmers. Maintain an awareness of the regulatory shifts that are influencing the agriculture industry and make certain that you are in compliance with the applicable laws and standards. A company’s legitimacy and capacity to compete in the market can be improved by obtaining certifications that pertain to the quality, safety, or sustainability of their products.

Further, we would like to incorporate sustainable business practices into the business model in order to attract customers that are environmentally sensitive and to satisfy the needs of the regulatory bodies. These may include the promotion of organic farming practices, the reduction of carbon emissions, or the investment in solutions that utilise renewable energy sources.

By Nitin Konde

Akhilesh Jain, Co- Founder Agrotech Risk

The Department of Food and Public Distribution is maintaining a close watch over the stock position of wheat and Rice to control prices and ensure easy availability in the country.

 In order to manage the overall food security and to prevent hoarding and unscrupulous speculation, the Government of India has decided that Traders/Wholesalers, Retailers, Big Chain Retailers and Processors in all States and Union Territories have to declare their Stock position of wheat on the portal ( w.e.f. 01.04.2024 and then, on every Friday till further orders. All the respective legal entities to ensure that stock is regularly and correctly disclosed on the portal.

Further, Wheat Stock Limit is expiring on 31.03.2024 for all categories of entities in States and UTs. Thereafter, the entities have to disclose the wheat stock on portal. Rice stock declaration by all categories of entities is already in-place. Any entity which is not registered on the Portal, may register themselves and start disclosing the wheat and rice stock on every Friday. Now, all legal entities have to declare their Wheat and Rice stock on the portal regularly.

The Department of Food and Public Distribution is maintaining a close watch over the stock position of wheat and Rice to control prices and ensure easy availability in the country.

The Department of Food and Public Distribution

 Nikita Tiwari, Co-Founder of NEERX shares a comprehensive perspective on the regenerative agriculture sector in India with AgroSpectrum.

NEERX was founded in 2019 with the mission to solve climate challenges in agriculture. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, the NeerX app integrates data from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, satellites, and cutting-edge agricultural technologies. In order to boost productivity and decrease agri-input costs for millions of farmers worldwide, the company aspires to assist in mitigating climate risks and crop management issues. Nikita Tiwari, Co-Founder of NEERX shares a comprehensive perspective on the regenerative agriculture sector in India with AgroSpectrum. Editorial Excerpts;

How do you envisage the future of regenerative agriculture in India?

Through our work at NEERX and our involvement in the development of sustainable agricultural solutions, we have witnessed a substantial change in agricultural practices. This change has been accompanied by an increased awareness of the negative impact that conventional methods have on both the environment and human health. An approach that not only strives to restore soil health but also fosters biodiversity, conserves water, and mitigates climate change has emerged as a result of this awakening, which has opened the way for the growth of regenerative agriculture. Cover cropping, crop rotation, agroforestry, and precision irrigation are examples of regenerative farming practices that are gaining popularity among farmers as they realise the long-term benefits of these practices. The establishment of resource centres that are dispersed across India and are located in close proximity to farmers is one of the most effective strategies to solicit their participation. At the corporate level as well, these practices, when paired with traceability, will result in better prices and enhanced transparency for customers. As a result, technological enablement at the last mile also plays a significant role in this context. 

Which of the states of this country are actually making inroads for regenerative agriculture practices and how?

It has been successful for states that have not only placed an emphasis on initiatives advocated by the central government but also implemented schemes at the state level. Some of the states that would be included on the list are Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Himachal Pradesh. Within the next few years, these states would bring forth a promising number of hectares under regenerative agriculture and the influence that they would have. 

What are the major challenges in adapting regenerative practices in agriculture and what are the possible solutions for them?

When it comes to transitioning to regenerative techniques, farmers in India face a financial barrier due to the fact that their credit cycles are extremely short and their harvest levels are unpredictable. Second, because the initial capital cost of the product is higher, the price at which it is sold in the market must be competitive or the government must provide financial assistance in order to make it profitable. The adoption of water management systems with the assistance of the government, as well as the incorporation of crop cycles and livestock rotations on farms, might potentially enhance the revenue. For the purpose of overcoming obstacles, it is essential to facilitate the flow of knowledge and collaboration among farmers, researchers, and stakeholders. The creation of forums for the exchange of best practices, experiences, and lessons learned can be facilitated through the encouragement of networks, farmer-led organisations, and community-based projects.

In terms of cost effectiveness, how effective is regenerative farming and does it have the capacity to mint more money through its produce?

For the purpose of making a judgment on the cost-effectiveness of a certain methodology, a national average is not the appropriate method; rather, we should concentrate on regional pockets and investigate the sustainability of regenerative farming. The implementation of these methods should not be attempted in areas that are under a great deal of stress, such as Kutch, the southeastern section of Maharashtra, Northern Karnataka, and certain parts of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh region. Those regions that have sufficient water availability, adequate access to inputs, and a market should be the ones that are promoted the most for regenerative agricultural activities. In the present moment, these are the only markets that are generating profits, particularly in the food and beverage segments, rice, spices, and certain perennial crops. 

In India, the Union government is promoting regenerative agriculture with an aim to reduce application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and to lower input costs. What is your view on this development?

Over the course of agricultural history, conventional farming practices have traditionally placed a significant emphasis on the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides in order to achieve maximum crop yields. These inputs have been shown to have positive effects in the short term; nevertheless, they frequently result in ecological deterioration in the long term. However, on the other hand, it is not a good idea to immediately stop using fertilisers or pesticides. Although crops do require them, the overall value of the crop is increased when they are treated at the optimal amounts. The following are the data links that are missing and need to be completed at the agricultural land owned by farmers. Additionally, the initial costs of natural farming are on the higher end, but the benefits that are gained over the long run are enormous. 

Other major challenges centre around farmers’ behavioral skew towards conventional farming, lack of consistency in understanding, inadequate skill sets among farmers and the lack of access and availability of resources like capital, natural inputs and technology. How do you think that these can be resolved?

It is possible that a lot of farmers aren’t familiar with regenerative approaches and the advantages they offer. Assisting farmers in increasing their awareness and expanding their knowledge can be accomplished through the provision of educational and training programmes, workshops, and demonstrations. When it comes to the dissemination of knowledge, doing so in collaboration with agricultural extension agencies, colleges, and research institutions can be extremely beneficial. 

What are your expectations for the government?

The most important stakeholders are farmers; therefore, the government should make it its top priority to increase their income and improve their standard of living. There are still a great deal of prejudices that are present during the process of implementing new policies, which ought to be impartial, and partisan politics ought to be eliminated.

                                                                               By Nitin Konde

 Nikita Tiwari, Co-Founder of NEERX shares a

By Sandeep Sabharwal, CEO, Sohan Lal Commodity Management Pvt. Ltd. (SLCM)

Every year, India loses approximately 74 million tonnes of food, accounting for 10 per cent of total foodgrain and horticulture production in the country. The prime reason for this food grain loss is inadequate infrastructure, fragmented supply chains, lack of access to new age technology and also barriers in information majorly coming in because of lack of acceptance of new ideas by agri fraternity. The agri industry is making sure that it deals with this multifaceted problem with innovative solutions. This problem of food loss has created multiple opportunities for the agri tech industry to create solutions that were unthinkable earlier. This has led to job creation, better produce, economic growth and value addition to agricultural produce.

In this stead, utilising innovative Farming Techniques have emerged as a steppingstone.  Such techniques can ensure that we can easily minimize food loss. Precision agriculture, hydroponics, or vertical farming, which optimize resource utilization and reduce wastage should be the way forward for farmers. Moreover, Technological Interventions are also being created by agri tech leaders. Today mobile apps for real-time market information, blockchain for transparent supply chains, and AI-driven analytics for predictive crop management are available. Though, there will be a need to handhold the agri fraternity and teach them the technology till they become comfortable with it, but the journey towards the goal has already begun.

Infrastructure Development is another area that has seen tremendous improvement in the past decade. Long gone are the traditional warehouses. Today the new, improved cold storage facilities, faster transportation networks, and packaging solutions have enabled the farmer to extend the shelf life of perishable goods. Farmers can make use scientific agri warehousing practices that enable them to timestamp when they store their produce and when they take it out. Online apps are also helping farmers to get their grains certified, which saves time and money and enables them to get the right value for their products.  

Community Initiatives such as farmer cooperatives, food banks, and decentralized processing units also add value to surplus produce. In addition to it, Government Policies and Support in the form of subsidies for modern farming equipment, investment in rural infrastructure, and awareness campaigns on proper storage and handling practices are ensuring that the farmer is happy at the end of the day. This will ultimately lead to Market Diversification and thus reduced dependency on traditional channels, exploring avenues such as organic farming, niche markets, and export opportunities to minimize surplus production and associated losses.

Capacity building and training programs for farmers, focusing on post-harvest management techniques, quality control measures, and efficient packaging methods to reduce food loss along the supply chain is already underway but a more focused approach is needed so that these resources reach the farmers. Climate-resilient practices and technologies can also help to minimize crop losses and ensure food security. In the end, we need to ensure that the prime beneficiaries of all our efforts are the farmers. The prime goal is to see that the agri industry grows leaps and bounds within no time at all.

By Sandeep Sabharwal, CEO, Sohan Lal Commodity

Decentralised biochar production technology will be an affordable and viable option for farmers and Self-Help Groups (SHGs) to solve the issues around crop residues in a sustainable manner.

As global concerns over sustainable agriculture and climate change intensify, the use of biochar for soil amendment is increasingly gaining popularity because of its inherent properties that enrich the soil with nutrients and sequester carbon dioxide. These properties position biochar as a key player in agriculture’s shift towards net-zero emissions and in preventing soil degradation.

A recent study by ICRISAT scientists explores the design of an affordable, farm-level operable kiln for biochar production aimed at supporting smallholder farmers. The research paper also examines the properties of the biochar produced to better understand its applicability.

In her congratulatory remarks to the study’s authors, Director General of ICRISAT, Dr Jacqueline Hughes, underscored the significance of integrated solutions in accelerating our collective journey towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Biochar production not only solves the issue of managing crop residues, but its application in soil health, wastewater treatment and carbon farming opens up enormous opportunities to move towards a cleaner and greener future,” Dr Hughes shared.

According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India, India produces over 500 million tons of agricultural residues annually, with about one fourth being burned (2017-2018). The incineration of these residues causes several health and environmental concerns. However, converting these residues into biochar presents a viable alternative, offering not just a method for managing this waste, but also the potential for additional revenue or cost savings for farmers. 

Dr ML Jat, Director, Global Research Program – Resilient Farm and Food Systems, ICRISAT emphasized the importance of adopting a decentralized approach to ensure that the process benefits the farmers.

“This low-cost, decentralized biochar production technology will be an affordable and viable option for farmers and Self-Help Groups (SHGs) to solve the issues around crop residues in a sustainable manner. Moreover, this technology also aligns well with government incentives for voluntary carbon markets and environmental initiatives like the ‘Mission Life-Lifestyle for the Environment program,'” Dr Jat noted.

The characteristics of biochar significantly depend on the type of crop residue used. In this study, two types of feedstocks—pigeonpea and maize stalk—were used to draw a comparison between the ICRISAT-designed pyrolysis kiln and a lab-scale muffle furnace.

The study also examined the physical and chemical attributes of biochar derived from the two feedstocks, using high-end imaging and analytical technologies such as Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Thermogravimetric Analyzer (TGA).

Research reveals that biochar created in the portable kiln at 400°C exhibits a quality comparable to that produced in the muffle furnace. Further analysis shows that the biochar derived from pigeonpea and maize stalks contains total carbon percentages of 48.9 per cent and 41.9 per cent, respectively. Within these totals, the proportion of stable carbon stands at approximately 98.6 per cent for pigeonpea stalk biochar and 94.4 per cent for maize stalk biochar.

“Organic waste management methods like composting and mulching are efficient, yet thermochemical techniques, such as pyrolysis, offer distinct advantages, including quicker processing times and higher efficiency, particularly with dry residues,” Dr Gajanan Sawargaonkar, Senior Scientist, ICRISAT, and one of the study’s authors, remarked. 

Dr Sawargaonkar also highlighted that the data produced in the study will significantly contribute to the development of a holistic set of practices aimed at advancing sustainable agriculture.

Decentralised biochar production technology will be an

The acquisition of Pace bolsters AgroFresh’s presence in key fruit-growing regions in North and South America.

As the pioneer and global leader in post-harvest solutions for fresh produce, AgroFresh Solutions, Inc. announced the acquisition of Pace International LLC, including its domestic and overseas operations (“Pace”). Prior to the transaction, Pace was a subsidiary of Valent BioSciences LLC, a Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. group company. Pace is a respected global provider of sustainable post-harvest solutions, equipment and technical services. The acquisition of Pace bolsters AgroFresh’s presence in key fruit-growing regions in North and South America and further enables the company to support its global customers with quality and freshness solutions for high value and highly perishable crops.

Pace manufactures and supplies edible fruit coatings, fungicides, cleaners and sanitizers, sustainable storage treatments and application equipment for fresh produce. Integrating the Pace business expands AgroFresh’s post-harvest solutions to a broader portfolio of technology, services and digital solutions in both the organic and conventional produce categories, furthering AgroFresh’s ability to support customers in accomplishing their mission of protecting produce quality and freshness on its journey from harvest to home.

“This acquisition enables us to take another important step towards our vision — to be regarded by customers as the post-harvest partner of choice. We are excited to bring the combined portfolios, technical expertise and services of both companies to customers,” says Clint Lewis, CEO at AgroFresh. “Bringing together our two companies allows us to better address the complete needs of customers across a broad array of crops, markets and at every step in the fresh supply chain, ultimately helping customers produce and deliver an abundant supply of quality fresh produce, sustainably.”

In addition to integrating the Pace business into the company, AgroFresh and Valent BioSciences plan to develop a strategic collaboration to accelerate the development of innovation to address the most pressing challenges in the freshness protection space. This collaboration aims to capitalize on the expertise and technology pipeline of Valent BioSciences to develop new post-harvest products, services and digital solutions and to leverage AgroFresh’s global scale and reach to bring them to market.

“Acquisition of the Pace business by AgroFresh will create a post-harvest solutions platform that benefits customers and the food protection industry as a whole through stronger global reach, enhanced services and additional innovation capabilities,” says Salman Mir, President and CEO of Valent BioSciences. “We are excited to collaborate with AgroFresh in developing and commercializing new products, technologies and services that will address key customer challenges.”

With the addition of Pace, AgroFresh is better positioned to address customers’ needs through a full portfolio of products and capabilities. This will be realized along with a continued commitment to advancing innovation in the post-harvest sector and supporting customers in their effort to grow and distribute an abundant supply of sustainable, quality, fresh produce around the world.

AgroFresh Solutions Inc. is a portfolio company of Paine Schwartz Partners, a global leader in sustainable food chain investing. Deutsche Bank served as financial advisor and Morrison & Foerster served as AgroFresh’s legal advisor for the transaction.

The acquisition of Pace bolsters AgroFresh's presence

The report recommends using science and data to make better decisions, focusing on local agriculture ecosystems (LAE).

DCM Shriram Foundation, supported by DCM Shriram, a leading conglomerate in India with a strong presence in agriculture, and Sattva Knowledge Institute, a knowledge platform for the impact ecosystem, today launched the report titled, Transforming Crop Cultivation: Advancing Water Efficiency in Indian Agriculture to identify actionable solutions to address the ongoing water crisis in the Indian agriculture sector.

Agriculture today accounts for 90 per cent of the water withdrawals in India, an indication of how water-intensive this sector is. Furthermore, within the agriculture sector alone, irrigation uses 84 per cent of the country’s precious water reserves, followed by domestic and industrial sectors. Unfortunately, this trend is estimated to continue, as per 2025 and 2050 projections, unless systemic changes are introduced to evolve from high water use methods to more sustainable options in the agricultural sector. These systemic changes will need to address complex challenges, such as the myopic reliance on philanthropic funding, limited scalability of initiatives beyond pilot projects, and inadequate collaboration among stakeholders.

Addressing these challenges will require catering to Local Agricultural Ecosystems (LAE), whilst also enabling the scale of these solutions and techniques across states. Solutions that account for the LAE will not only foster localised insights to tailor water- efficient techniques for individual farmers and specific regions, but also mobilise effective government and industry involvement to enable scale.

In the long term, addressing the water crisis from the agriculture sector will require diversifying funding sources, fostering partnerships with government and private sector actors, and promoting sustainable financing mechanisms.

Debaranjan Pujahari, Principal and Head, Agriculture Practice Area, Sattva Knowledge Institute, expressed the urgency of the situation by stating, “India is the most populous and the most water-stressed agrarian economy in the world. Our food security demands the production of water-intensive crops, exerting pressure on our water resources. Driving on-farm water efficiency in agriculture is the need of the hour if we want to avert the impending water crisis in India”.

Recognising the gravity of this situation, DCM Shriram Foundation and Sattva Knowledge Institute have undertaken a comprehensive study to understand the complexities of water scarcity and the use of water in Indian agriculture. The study sheds light on the intrinsic link between water and agriculture, emphasising the challenges posed by cultivating water-intensive crops like rice and sugarcane.

The report brings together insights from more than 50 public reports and over 40 sectoral experts to present three focused, actionable recommendations to scale water efficiency in agriculture.

● The first recommendation is to build a public tool that can offer tailored techniques and practices contextualised to LAEs. By providing personalised recommendations aligned with the unique characteristics of each ecosystem, the aim is to empower industry players, policy, and smallholder farmers to make informed decisions, driving sustainable practices at the grassroots level.

● The second recommendation introduces the concept of a Water Vulnerability Index, enabling science and data-led business and policy decisions. This comprehensive index consolidates diverse data parameters, offering stakeholders a reliable resource to guide their actions. By integrating scientific insights into decision-making processes, we pave the way for more effective water management practices and informed policy interventions.

● The final recommendation proposes developing a model for collaborative action among essential stakeholders in the ecosystem, including government entities, to encourage joint commitments to harness the industry’s capabilities to promote greater adoption of water-efficient practices in agriculture. This framework aims to facilitate collective learning and advocacy efforts.

Aman Pannu, Vice President, Corporate Communications & CSR and President, DCM Shriram Foundation expressed her optimism about sharing this report in collaboration with Sattva Knowledge Institute, “Water scarcity poses a formidable threat to India’s agricultural landscape, demanding urgent attention and collaborative action. Our findings highlight the urgent need for collective action and innovation to safeguard our water resources while ensuring food security for all. We believe that by leveraging science, data, and strategic collaboration, we can drive transformative change and build a sustainable future for generations to come.”

The report recommends using science and data

A three-year collaboration will focus on the introduction and scaling of bio-fortified, low glycemic index, and premium quality rice varieties.

 The state of Odisha produced nearly 11 million tons of rice in 2021, considerably contributing to the national food reserve and meeting the staple requirement of around 45 million of its population. The focus of the government has now shifted to diversify the state’s food basket to include healthier choices for consumers by mainstreaming nutritious rice varieties with high zinc, iron, protein, and low Glycaemic Index (GI) traits.

These high yielding nutritious rice varieties have great market potential and may be positioned as a premium product segment which could generate higher demand and economic value to producers. Varietal awareness, systematic seed access, a robust supply chain, and adoption in scale will be crucial for the sustenance and uptake of these rice varieties and create economies of scale. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Department of Agriculture & Farmers’ Empowerment, Government of Odisha, recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) to accelerate the production of these varieties and explore its potential to improve consumer health outcomes, strengthen the formal and local seed systems, and create new market linkages for the wide scale production and distribution of new specialty rice varieties in Odisha.

Signed by Prem Chandra Chaudhary, Director of Agriculture and Food Production and IRRI Interim Director General Dr Ajay Kohli, the three-year collaboration will focus on the introduction and scaling of bio-fortified, low glycaemic index, and premium quality rice varieties. The project will be implemented under the overall supervision of IRRI Scientist and Principal Investigator, Dr Swati Nayak, South Asia Lead for Seed Systems.

The project will be implemented in the districts of Bhadrak, Mayurbhanj, Ganjam, and Bolangir, with an expected annual direct participation of some 5,000 farmer producers and coverage and production area of 2,000 hectares. At the end of the project cycle, the project will have covered a total of 15,000 farmers and 6,000 hectares and connected with several institutions, channels, and consumer markets.

Speaking on the rising importance of specialty rice in India, Dr Kohli remarked: “Odisha’s revised agriculture agenda calls for a rice sector that is profitable and demand-driven. Rice is no longer just a simple staple. It needs to add more value to farmers and consumers and that can happenthrough value-added traits for improved nutrition and health benefits. The renewed interest and policy focus of the state government acts as an enabler in the right direction.”

In order to generate production at scale, the formal and semi-formal seed system will be strategically supported for institutional engagement and ownership for seed scaling of selected specialty varieties. With evidence generated through season-long on-farm testing of past and ongoing efforts, the key healthier varieties will be mainstreamed with the help of state seed corporations and community-owned seed networks for mass production. Leveraging regional cooperation policies like Seeds Without Borders and partnering with Indian National Breeding Network partners, new and more promising healthier rice varieties will be introduced and scaled through the project.

“Nutrition through popularization of better germplasms and development of robust seed systems can now be achieved. We want to ensure decentralized and localized access to these products through systematic introduction, positioning, and scaling strategies for the best specialty rice varieties. This segment is immensely underexplored, both at producer and consumer levels, and we are grateful to the Government of Odisha for getting behind actionable research and programmatic interventions on this,” said Dr Nayak.

A three-year collaboration will focus on the

Having has more than 34 years of experience in operations, Suresh is currently with Hikal Ltd as Senior Vice President – Operations since 2015.

The Board of Directors of the Hikal Ltd at its meeting held on March 27, 2024, on the recommendation of the Nomination & Remuneration Committee, unanimously approved the appointment of Sarangan Suresh as an Additional Director of the Company in the category of Executive Director for a term of 5 (five) years, effective from April 1, 2024 subject to the approval of shareholders of the company.

 Sarangan Suresh has more than 34 years of experience in operations. Handling multiple sites at the same time worked, with companies like Rallis India Ltd, Sun Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Mylan Laboratories and currently with Hikal Ltd as Senior Vice President – Operations since 2015.

A Graduate in Chemical technology from IICT Mumbai (UDCT), Postgraduate in Chemical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science Bangalore. Has been spearheading several initiatives and received the CII award for water conservation within the fence category in 2020-21, Won the state award for safety in 2022-23, has won Chairman’s excellence awards during the career at DRL.

Started the career as Process Engineer with Rallis India Ltd, Handling Multiple sites as Deputy General Manager- Head of manufacturing, Sun Pharmaceuticals- Associate Director Manufacturing at DRL, AVP at Wockhardt Ltd, Associate Vice President at Mylan Laboratories and joined Hikal as Vice President-Operations in July 2015.

At Hikal worked on several corporate initiatives, a Project Management Tool- DAKSH, Lean Six Sigma manufacturing for key products, worked on several Capacity Expansion projects, Faced several Regulatory audits during the career successfully. Driving the Business Excellence initiative – Project Pinnacle, Working on Projects like Self-Managed Teams and Effective Manpower utilization projects. Chairperson of Execution Committee and Member of Business Leadership Committee at Hikal.

Having has more than 34 years of

For the procurement, NAFED and NCCF are to pre-register the onion farmers to ensure that payments to the farmers are transferred to their bank accounts through Direct Benefit Transfer.

In the current year, the Government has directed NCCF and NAFED to initiate procurement of 5 lakh tonnes of onion for the buffer requirement directly from the farmers as Rabi-2024 harvest started arriving in the market. For the procurement, NAFED and NCCF are to pre-register the onion farmers to ensure that payments to the farmers are transferred to their bank accounts through Direct Benefit Transfer.

Rabi onion is critical for country’s onion availability as it contributes 72 -75 per cent of annual production in the country. The Rabi onion is also crucial for ensuring year-round availability of onion as it has better shelf life compared to Kharif onion and can be stored for supplies till November- December.

It may be recalled that the Department of Consumer Affairs had, through NAFED and NCCF, purchased about 6.4 LMT of Onion during 2023-24 for the buffer stocking as well as intervention by way of simultaneous procurement and disposal. The continuous procurements by the NAFED and NCCF have guaranteed remunerative prices for onion farmers all through the year in 2023. Subsequently, the Department of Consumer Affairs adopted retail sale intervention for disposal of onion through retail outlets and mobile vans operated by NCCF, NAFED, Kendriya Bhandar and other State controlled cooperatives at subsidized price of Rs.25 per kg during last year. The timely intervention and calibrated release ensured stabilization of retail prices effectively without impacting farmer realization.

Global supply scenario and dry spell induced by El Niño had necessitated the Government to take up policy measures to regulate onion exports during FY 2023-24. These measures included 40 per cent duty on onion exports imposed on 19th August 2023, imposition of Minimum Export Price (MEP) of USD 800 per MT with effect from 29th October, 2023 and export prohibition w.e.f. 8th December, 2023 to ensure availability of onion to the domestic consumers at affordable prices.

The recent decision to extend onion export prohibition has been necessitated by the overall domestic availability against the prevailing international prices and global availability concerns.  The Government, meanwhile, has allowed exports to neighboring countries that rely on India for their domestic consumption requirements.  The Government has allowed the export of Onion to Bhutan (550 MT), Bahrain (3,000 MT), Mauritius (1,200 MT), Bangladesh (50,000 MT) and UAE (14,400 MT i.e. 3,600 MT/ quarter).

For the procurement, NAFED and NCCF are

SOLASTA Bio and Impetus Ag announced as winners of the Radicle Natural Plant Protection (NPP) Challenge by UPL.

UPL Corporation Ltd. (UPL Corp), a global provider of holistic and sustainable agricultural solutions, and Radicle Growth, a company-building platform investing in early-stage agriculture and food technologies, announced SOLASTA Bio as the winner of ‘the Radicle Natural Plant Protection (NPP) Challenge by UPL’, securing a $1M investment, with the runner-up Impetus Ag, receiving a $750,000 investment. The Challenge sought to identify entrepreneurs advancing natural and biological solutions and saw applications from 237 start-ups.

In addition to the funding, SOLASTA Bio and Impetus Ag will gain access to UPL Corp and Radicle Growth’s expertise and networks to help accelerate their development and growth.

SOLASTA Bio, an ag-biotech company specializing in the next-generation of green insecticides, was selected as the winner for developing nature-inspired, selectively targeted and sustainable peptide insect control products. Shireen Davies, CEO of SOLASTA Bio, said: “We are delighted to have won The Radicle NPP Challenge by UPL. We look forward to accelerating our sustainable insect control solutions towards the global market in a new phase for the company and enhancing this with industry support and global networks provided by UPL Corp and Radicle Growth”.

Impetus Ag, an ag-tech company developing biological insect control solutions with the effectiveness of legacy chemical methods, was selected as the runner-up for creating novel proteins that bind naturally occurring toxins to targeted pests. Dr. Martha Schlicher, CEO of Impetus Ag said: “Being a winner of The Radicle NPP Challenge by UPL is a game changer for Impetus Ag. Investment in parallel with product development resources, expertise, and access to global networks will ensure our products meet industry gold standards and will go a long way in authenticating our pest solutions with grower supply chains critical for product adoption.”

Mike Frank, CEO of UPL Corp., said: “We’re committed to expanding access to sustainable solutions as a route to shaping healthy, productive, and climate-positive food systems. Through this investment and our ongoing support, we’re excited to work with SOLASTA Bio and Impetus Ag to develop their biological innovations and deliver real-world impacts for farmers, food chains, and the planet. Thank you to our winners, finalists, and all of the incredible start-ups that entered this Radicle Challenge.”

Kirk Haney, Managing Partner of Radicle Growth, said: “Congratulations to our winners. We have been so inspired by the biological solutions on display at the Pitch Day Event, and we are deeply proud that the Radicle Challenge continues to serve as a leading platform for driving global deal flow and funding the most impressive technologies across the food value chain.

SOLASTA Bio and Impetus Ag announced as

In the Pacific region, sales in the full year and fourth quarter were impacted by high channel inventories and pricing pressure, combined with just in time purchasing patterns.

Israel based ADAMA Ltd. reported its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2023.  Steve Hawkins, President and CEO of ADAMA, said, “The crop protection industry as a whole faced challenging market conditions throughout 2023, resulting from high channel inventory and ongoing destocking at the distributor level. In response, ADAMA took immediate steps that supported a significant improvement ‎in cashflow in ‎‎2023, highlighting our strong execution ability‎”.

Fourth Quarter 2023 Highlights:

Sales down 13 per cent to $1,136 million (-13 per cent in RMB terms; -14 per cent in CER [terms), mainly reflecting a 15 per cent decrease in prices and a 1% increase in volumes

Adjusted EBITDA amounted to $95 million vs. $129 million in Q4 2022

Adjusted net loss of $101 million; Reported net loss of $79 million

Operating Cash Flow of $293 million vs $352 million in Q4 2022

Free Cash Flow of $130 million vs $204 million in Q4 2022

Full Year 2023 Highlights:

Sales down 16 per cent to $4,661 million (-12% in RMB terms; -15% in CER terms), mainly reflecting a 8 per cent decrease in prices and a 7 per cent decrease in volumes

Adjusted EBITDA amounted to $407 million vs. $740 million in the full year of 2022

Adjusted net loss of $236 million; Reported net loss of $225 million

Operating Cash Flow of $356 million vs $106 million in 2022

Free Cash Flow of -$147 million vs -$417 million in 2022

In China, the market is still experiencing high channel inventories and pricing pressure especially in commodities impacting both the branded formulation and non-ag sales. Sales were supported by the branded business, driven by recent and new launches of differentiated products, and ADAMA’s active ingredient business which recovered substantially, benefiting from the Sanonda Jingzhou site reaching high utilization after relocation.

In the Pacific region, sales in the full year and fourth quarter were impacted by high channel inventories and pricing pressure, combined with just in time purchasing patterns. In Australia, dryer weather also impacted sales. Despite this, sales benefited from the launch of the differentiated product Grindstone® and the Company’s biologicals portfolio.

‎Sales in India declined over the full year period following high channel inventory, creating pressure on pricing in the market. Moreover, the erratic weather did not support the consumption of such inventory. Despite this, it is noteworthy that differentiated product TrassidTM was well accepted in the market and along with increased focus on farmer demand generation, the Company’s sales increase in Q4.

Steve Hawkins also added that in addition to the significant improvement ‎ in cashflow, we improved the ‎sales mix of higher margin products, reduced operating expenses and inventory. These, however, are only the first steps to ensure the Company is ‎fully prepared to take advantage of anticipated market opportunities in 2024 and ‎onwards. To fully respond to the long-term as well as short-term market challenges, we launched an intensive transformation plan aimed at improving the quality of the business and revaluing ADAMA. We will focus on winning in the largest growing segment of the market – the value innovation segment – with our outstanding pipeline of differentiated products powered by our proprietary formulation technologies.

In the Pacific region, sales in the

The acquisition is made at an enterprise value of Rs 3,080 crores and company will purchase the 56 per cent stake of the SP Group and 39 per cent of Orissa Stevedores Limited (OSL) in GPL.

Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ), India’s largest ports and logistics company, has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase the 56 per cent stake of the SP Group and 39 per cent of Orissa Stevedores Limited (OSL) in Gopalpur Port Limited (GPL). The acquisition is made at an enterprise value of Rs 3,080 crores and the transaction is subject to statutory approvals and fulfilment of other conditions precedents.

Gopalpur port is located on the east coast of India and has the capacity to handle 20 MMTPA. The Government of Odisha awarded a 30-year concession to GPL in 2006, with the provision of two extensions of 10 years each.

As a deep draft, multi-cargo port, Gopalpur handles a diverse mix of dry bulk cargo, including iron ore, coal, limestone, ilmenite, and alumina. The port plays an important role in supporting the growth of mineral-based industries in its hinterland, like iron & steel, alumina and others. The concessionaire has full flexibility to design and expand the port as per the market demand. GPL has received more than 500 acres of land on lease for development, with an option to receive additional land on lease to meet future capacity expansions.

The port is well connected with its hinterland through the national Highway NH16 and a dedicated railway line connects the port with the Chennai-Howrah main line. # In addition to the enterprise value stated above there is a contingent consideration of INR 270 crores estimated to be payable after 5.5 years, subject to fulfilment of certain conditions as agreed with the sellers.

Karan Adani, Managing Director of APSEZ, said, “The acquisition of Gopalpur Port will allow us to deliver more integrated and enhanced solutions to our customers. Its location will allow us unprecedented access to the mining hubs of Odisha and neighboring states and allow us to expand our hinterland logistics footprint. GPL will add to the Adani Group’s pan-India port network, significantly enhance overall cargo volume, and strengthen APSEZ’s integrated logistics approach.”

In FY’24, GPL is estimated to handle about 11.3 MMT cargo (YoY growth – 52 per cent) and earn a revenue of Rs 520 crores (YoY growth – 39 per cent) and achieve EBITDA of Rs 232 crores (YoY growth – 65 per cent). In our view, the Gopalpur Port is all set for strong growth and margin expansion in FY’25 with opportunities already identified for achieving higher operational efficiencies and infra debottlenecking, implying further value accretion for APSEZ shareholders.

The acquisition is made at an enterprise

The microbial inoculum can boost the rapid degradation of agro residues (such as sugarcane leaves after harvesting) under field conditions.

ICAR-Central Institute for Research on Cotton Technology, Mumbai signed a Memorandum of Understanding with M/s. Relegare Agro Life Bio Science Private Limited Ahmednagar in Maharashtra.

The MoU has been signed by Dr S. K Shukla, Director, ICAR-CIRCOT, and Mr. G. T. Gadekar, Director, M/s. Relegare Agro Life Bio Science Private Limited on behalf of respective organizations for the development of microbial inoculum for in-situ degradation of agricultural waste.

 G. T. Gadekar, Director, M/s. Relegare Agro Life Bio Science Private Limited is engaged in the production of quality Bio-pesticides, Bio-fertilizers, and Bio-fungicide from beneficial microbes with the perfect cell count. They have a Euro-Global Certification (US) for good manufacturing processes & producing 100 per cent organic products. They use nanotechnology for innovative methods & practices in response to customers’ requisitions to combat various pests & diseases on crops and climate change.

The microbial inoculum can boost the rapid degradation of agro residues (such as sugarcane leaves after harvesting) under field conditions. The use of microbial and biological inputs may lead to a balanced use of fertilizers and may minimize the adverse impact on plant and soil health due to imbalanced fertilizers/chemicals used in agriculture.

Dr S. Sreenivasan, Former Director, ICAR-CIRCOT, and Dr A. J. Shaikh, Former Director, Heads, Division and Technology Innovators, were present during this occasion.

The microbial inoculum can boost the rapid