BUSINESS

Nurturing innovation in the agriculture sector

Where the twain meet:Some teams have started submitting proposals after visiting coconut farms.By special arrangement

Where the twain meet:Some teams have started submitting proposals after visiting coconut farms.By special arrangement  

As many as 24 teams of entrepreneurs, all in the agriculture start-up space, visited some of the coconut farms in Pollachi recently. They were there to meet the farmers, know first hand the challenges faced by the coconut growers, learn more about the irrigation systems used and see if their innovative solutions can be used in the farms.

After a two-day visit to Coimbatore and Pollachi and gaining better insight into the coconut crop, some of these teams have started submitting proposals to Marico Innovation Foundation to try out their technologies in the farms.

The visit was organised by the foundation, which is a non-profit organisation of Marico, as part of its “Innovate2Cultivate” programme.

This is a programme that connects start-ups with farmers of specific crops so that innovations are nurtured and taken to the farms.

Priya Kapadia, head of the Marico Innovation Foundation, explains that this is the first sector-specific project of “Innovate2Cultivate” and has the Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship as its knowledge partner.

The foundation invited start-ups to take part by listing out some of the broad challenges faced by the coconut growers and received nearly 100 applications.

Of these, 37 were short-listed as cohort members and all of them are working in the agriculture sector.

Working on alternatives

The start-ups have developed or are working on technologies and solutions such as organic micro nutrients and alternatives to pest management and soil management. But these are for specific crops. “The project gives them an exposure to a new crop, potential customers and business,” she says. Kshitij Thakur, co-founder of Mumbai-based Occipital Tech, was part of the team of entrepreneurs who came to Pollachi.

His company builds grading and sorting solutions for fruits and vegetables. “Grading and sorting is mostly done manually now and is not standardised. We use computer vision. Cameras are placed on the conveyor belts and the software sorts the produce based on shape, colour, and size, according to the requirements of the customer. We are targeting food processing companies and exporters,” he says.

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