The fund will be set up to encourage talent from the youth, and aim at transforming the sector’s practices, to increase productivity and profitability
An Agriculture Accelerator Fund will be set up to encourage agri-startups by young entrepreneurs in rural areas, said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, during the presentation of the Union budget 2023-24. The fund will aim at bringing innovative and affordable solutions for challenges faced by farmers. It will also bring in modern technologies to transform agricultural practices, and increase productivity and profitability.
Digital public infrastructure for agriculture will be built as an open-source, open standard and interoperable platform for public good. This will enable inclusive, farmer centric solutions through relevant information services for crop planning and health; improved access to farm inputs, credit, and insurance; help for crop estimation and market intelligence. It will support the growth of the agri-tech industry and start-ups operating in the space, according to the minister.
Shashi Kant Singh, Executive Director, Agri & Natural Resources, PwC India, said, the Union budget was incentivising a forward-looking vision for agriculture. “Focus on accelerator funds for agri-startups, higher agri-credit allocation, making India a global hub for millets, along with digital and functional rejuvenation of Primary Agricultural Credit Societies would have a long-lasting impact on the sector,’‘ Mr. Singh observed.
The Government’s commitment to setting up digital public infrastructure for agriculture would help the agritech startups to connect with more farmers and in turn enable them to realise better value for their produce, said Varun Khurana, Founder & CEO, Otipy, an e-commerce service allowing users to buy farm-fresh produce. “It is encouraging to see the government’s focus on agriculture, specifically setting up an agri accelerator fund for agri-startups. This will accelerate the pace of innovation in a sector which is India’s biggest, in the context of the employment generation,’‘ said Mr. Khurana.
Ketan Doshi, Senior Adviser, Transforming Agriculture for Small Farmers, The/Nudge Institute, a not-for-profit organisation, said the budget has been inclusive, especially since next year is the election year. “The Government seems to have the right intent to help farmers. Still, one has to see how these proposals are going to be implemented,’‘ he said.
The proposed Agriculture Accelerator Fund can provide a supportive environment that can help agritech startups grow faster by providing them with resources, exposure, and opportunities to succeed, said Anirudh A Damani, Managing Partner, Artha Venture Fund. “Through this effort, the government can give these startups more support ranging from seed funding and mentorship programmes to infrastructure subsidies and appropriate market access,’‘ he added.
Mayank Tiwari, Founder and CEO, Reshamandi, an ecosystem for natural fibre, said this initiative is a step towards turning agritech into a sunrise sector for investments. “This will further provide a much-needed boost in productivity, besides improving efficiency, and reducing crop failure, to farmers, and all other stakeholders in the supply chain, who will now gain access to new-age technology developed by agritech start-ups.’‘
The budget also proposed opening Centres of Excellence for Artificial Intelligence in top educational institutions to support the growth, and conduct interdisciplinary research. The centres will develop cutting-edge applications and scalable solutions in the areas of agriculture, health, and sustainable cities.
According to the Finance Minister, plans are also on to set up massive decentralised storage capacity to help farmers store their harvest, cut losses, and increase their incomes.