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Wonders never cease. An engineer-turned-farmer who learnt farming on YouTube (of all places!) is growing strawberries in the desert state Rajasthan in winter. Also, 16 farmers visited Israel in May 2016 under the Rajasthan government’s initiative to strengthen its agricultural cooperation with Israel and came back to start olive farming in the state. Today, Rajasthan has become the first state to produce olive green tea and is exporting extra virgin olive oil to the UK, USA, Singapore, Netherlands.

After making its name in the startup ecosystem with progressive policies, implementation of e-governance in the state, the Rajasthan government is fast spreading its Digital Rajasthan initiative to improve agriculture in the state.

With a view to boost the state’s agricultural status, the Rajasthan government has been extending support to the farmers and other stakeholders in many ways. Recently, the Honourable Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje waived off farmer loans worth INR 8,000 Cr.

In the next step, CM Raje is focussing on tackling problems in the sector from the root and is inviting applications from agritech entrepreneurs to participate in Challenge For Change.

Calling Innovators And Startups In AgriTech Space: Take Up The Challenge For Change

In line with the major problems facing the agriculture community in the state, the government has called for ideas under its Challenge for Change initiative from individuals and startups working in the following areas:

  • Making barren land productive: The government aims to develop crop varieties, and improve methods of cultivation, plantation, vegetation, and boost industrialisation to make large swathes of barren land useable.
  • Improving shelf life of agricultural produce:  Solutions are invited in the form of setup technology enabled (radio frequency identification or RFID powered) cold chains so that the life of the produce can be tracked, thereby significantly improving go-to-market value for farmers
  • Tackling water scarcity in cultivation: The government is looking at the best innovators in agriculture with new age drip/harvesting technologies.

Challenge for Change, an innovation support platform, was launched in August 2017 as part of the Rajasthan government’s iStart initiative. It aims to serve the twin purpose of providing a platform for early-stage startups as well as getting the state government acquainted with talent and solutions locally.

It aims to connect startups, innovators, and mentors to brainstorm on strengthening the IT vertebrae of the state to solve the issues at the ground level in certain sectors. Since its launch, more than 133K people have registered of the platform. Right now it’s calling applicationsforfive challenges in different domains.

If you are passionate about leveraging technology in agriculture and improving the lives of India’s farmers and have an innovative idea in agritech that could be the next big thing, all you need to do is register for the Rajasthan government’s Challenge for Challenge. You can apply here to achieve your entrepreneurial dream in agritech.

Agriculture In Rajasthan: The Challenges Entrepreneurs Can Take Up

Rajasthan is essentially an agrarian state. Agriculture contributes around 25% of the state’s economic output and employs two-thirds of the state’s working population. However, the state’s particular geographical characteristics — a harsh, dry climate, large swathes of infertile land, and lack of adequate water resources —  are proving to be a hurdle in providing the much-needed boost to the agricultural sector.

Apart from having large swathes of barren wastelands and sand dunes stretching into the Thar desert, Rajasthan also struggles with an extremely arid to humid climate, with little rain in most part of the state. This further affects the soil quality and also reduces the shelf life of the agriculture produce.

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The total cultivated area in the state is about 20 Mn hectares but of this only 10.21% of the land is irrigated. The ground water level is only 30-61 metre deep. As a result, Rajasthan farmers have to depend on different sources of irrigation including tube wells, wells, and tanks as well as on neighbouring states such Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.

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Eyeing Innovation With Challenge For Change

In the past couple of years, the state has introduced a host of digital initiatives to boost agriculture and state of farmers in the state. Some of these initiatives include: dedicated website for the department of Agriculture, events such as the Global Rajasthan Agritech meet, other websites like mkisaan, farmer.gov.in, as well as crop insurance, among others. With the newly launched initiative, the state is now looking at the tech solutions to improve the agriculture productivity via improving conditions.

According to the Inc42 Agritech report 2017, agritech startups are addressing input challenges of agriculture in India from the very beginning. They are able to provide correct information, techniques, and efficiencies to farmers for both pre-harvest applications and post-harvest use cases.

The report also highlighted that most government policies treat agriculture as a poverty alleviation method, when the focus should be on enhancing productivity and raising incomes. That’s exactly what CM Raje and Mr Arora are trying to do, making Rajasthan the top contender in the DIPP’s state ranking framework in the process.

Under Challenge For Change, the Rajasthan government is looking to disburse government work orders worth $800K directly to selected agri startups and innovators without the hassle of having to send in tenders. Moreover, the government will waive off conditions like prior experience, minimum turnover, etc, for these works contracts.

The state government is looking for young minds with innovative ideas to apply technology in agriculture, thereby boosting its efforts to increase farming revenue and improve farmers’ lives. The solutions can be around cultivation of crops in dry areas, increasing greenery, industrialisation, and employment generation.

Solutions are also invited for setting up technology enabled (radio frequency identification or RFID powered) cold chains so that the life of the produce can be tracked, thereby significantly improving go-to-market value for farmers.

The government further wants godowns to be set up in key areas to help ease the logistic load of farmers. It also wants development of a storage location guide App or SMS utility to assist cultivators.

AsGil Haskel, the head of MASHAV, the Israeli foreign ministry’s wing dealing with international cooperation in the field of agriculture, says, “Everything is doable and everything is possible with proper technology,” Rajasthan has already started off the mission on its part.

So, share your agritech innovation ideas with the Rajasthan government, and get a helping hand in achieving your entrepreneurial dream while contributing to the state’s farming sector.

Interested Innovators And Startups Can Apply Here!

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