IARI stands up to incubate Agri-Biz startupsVivian Fernandes
The Indian Agricultural Research Institute says it has received 250 applications for mentoring support from budding agri-business entrepreneurs and expects the number to rise to 400 by the 4 August deadline.
‘Arise,’ the agribusiness incubation programme is the second being organized by IARI’s Zonal Technology Management & Business Planning and Development Unit, its in-charge, Neeru Bhooshan said. The first was on a smaller scale in 2014.
To be eligible, a start up should not be more than five years old; its annual turnover should not have exceeded Rs 25 cr; and its purpose should be development or deployment of new technology or intellectual property.
After evaluation of the technical and business parameters, the applicants will get pre-incubation support, where they will be taught how to present their proposals to likely financiers. A maximum of 40 applicants will be selected. The mentoring will be done by agri-business CEOs and professors. They will not charge for the service. They are all successful and want to give back to society, Bhooshan said.
Venture funds like Omnivore has shown interest. Formal collaborations with other venture funds and angel investors are likely over the next few days.
An investor pitch day will be organized in December for seed funding from the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and other agencies.
In the 2014 round, seven start-ups were selected. Among them were Arpan Seeds, which produces and markets low erucic acid mustard oil developed by IARI’s division of genetics. Erucic acid is not good for the heart in high doses. This company is ready for the second round of funding, Bhooshan said.
Unison Agrico, set up by an entrepreneur with a B.Tech in food technology, produces ready-to-eat breakfast cereal based on seven kinds of millets.
KAD Biosciences produces roasted soybeans under license from IARI. Ananya Seeds is into hybrid vegetables seeds. Eco Inputs produces liquid bio-fertilizer. W S Telematics has developed a soil testing and fertilizer recommendation meter. Sickle Innovation has developed a cotton picking machine and a mango plucker.
These start-ups seem to be weak in the marketing department.
Bhooshan says her unit has commercialized 135 products and has 400 industry partners. Among the successful projects is the commercialization of IARI’s HD 3086 wheat, which is resistant to terminal heat and tolerant of water logging. About 200 seed companies, including 57 start-ups, obtained the license and made the seeds available to farmers within three years in the wheat-producing areas of the country.
Ten companies, including three start-ups, commercialized the soil testing and fertilizer recommendation meter developed by the institute. Nano-fertilizers for better absorption of nutrients and hydrogels for coating seeds to enable them to cope with moisture stress are other products that have elicited business interest.