01 July, 2019

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Tata Trusts join hands to set up India Agritech Incubation Network and launch ‘Social Alpha Quest for Agritech Innovations’ to identify innovative solutions that can impact small and marginal farmers

  • Up to 12 innovations will be selected to be a part of the first cohort of the India Agritech Incubation Network at IIT Kanpur
  • 60 Agritech start-ups to be incubated over 5 years to impact 50,000 farmers
  • Tata Trusts to provide grassroots level sandbox for pilots and implementation

Lucknow, July 1, 2019: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Tata Trusts have joined hands to set up the India Agritech Incubation Network (IAIN) and launch the ‘Social Alpha Quest for Agritech Innovations’. The IAIN is envisioned as a network of incubators across the country to promote innovations for smallholder farmers. The first hub for IAIN will be set up at IIT Kanpur’s Innovation and Incubation center, in collaboration with Social Alpha, Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI) and the Government of Uttar Pradesh.

The Social Alpha Quest for Agritech Innovations was announced with the aim of enabling an ecosystem for innovators and entrepreneurs to develop farmer-focused technology solutions. The objective would be to empower small and marginal farmers towards increasing productivity and profitability. The Quest is looking for innovators and entrepreneurs with transformative technologies that address a curated set of challenges faced by smallholder farmers. Up to 12 innovations will be selected to be a part of the first cohort of the IAIN and will receive incubation support for the next 12-24 months.

Innovative technology solutions, with a strong focus on affordability, accessibility, efficiency and user experience across the agriculture and allied value chain are invited to participate in the quest. These would include focus on enhancing yield and productivity, better post-harvest loss management and value addition, improving market linkages and traceability, among others.

Dr. Purvi Mehta, Head of Agriculture, Asia, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “We deeply appreciate the Uttar Pradesh Government’s vision of using technology as a vehicle for the economic development of smallholder farmers. For inclusive agricultural transformation, it is important to align the country’s agriculture innovation, incubation and investment ecosystems with the needs of smallholder agricultural and livestock sectors. We believe Social Alpha, CInI and IIT Kanpur will provide the right ecosystem and intensive mentorship to startups with the potential to show large-scale sustainable impact. We are hopeful that IAIN will emerge as a collaborative and responsive network that will place special emphasis on technology adoption by smallholders while building a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs to scale their business”

Manoj Kumar, Head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Tata Trusts and CEO, Social Alpha, said, “Venture Investments are gaining momentum in agritech space though mostly limited to Internet of Things, e-commerce and farm to fork logistics play. Deep science and technology innovations in agriculture and livestock are yet to receive similar incubation and investment support, which is necessary to improve productivity, efficiency and profitability of our farmers. The Quest aims to support, mentor and engage mission driven entrepreneurs to develop solutions that will positively improve the livelihoods outcomes of small and marginal farmers.”

As part of this Quest, up to 12 winners will receive:
  • Sandbox facility to test, validate and pilot innovations/projects on the ground in the state of Uttar Pradesh, using Tata Trusts’ extensive network
  • Access to Social Alpha’s seed investment and / or grants funding; and facilitated access to a large investor and donor network
  • Access to state-of-the-art technology incubation space with high quality labs, equipment for refining and testing at IIT Kanpur’s Incubator facility
  • Product development support including assistance with designing, rapid prototyping and design for manufacturing
  • Dedicated agri-business experts to assist with business planning, developing go-to-market strategy and overall business advisory
  • Mentorship by a set of qualified global and local experts; and curated set of capacity building sessions
  • Practical on-the-ground feedback from the farmer community, grassroots non-profits, agriculture experts and corporate and government bodies
  • Access to shared office space and amenities at Social Alpha or IIT Kanpur incubation centres and support services such as accounting, compliance, taxation, legal, IP, etc.

“We have focused on infusion of technology-led innovations in the rural areas as a key step towards achieving sustainability and irreversibility under our Mission programme for small holder farmers. Through the IAIN programme, we would like to demonstrate at scale agriculture technology innovations for small and marginal farmers. One of our goal statement is to develop regions as drivers of growth and we strongly believe user friendly technology innovations in agriculture will help achieve the goal” said Ganesh Neelam, Zonal Manager, Tata Trusts and Executive Director, CInI

As part of IAIN, a physical incubator will be set up at IIT-Kanpur to provide incubation services including specialized laboratory infrastructure, venture-building resources, financial support and farmer community access to help catalyze the lab to last-mile journey. Over the next five years, the plan is to support 60 enterprises with technology and business incubation that will impact 50,000 farmers.

Dr. Abhay Karandikar, Director, IIT Kanpur, said “Modern technologies spanning geospatial mapping, input and output management, modern irrigation with IoT enabled devices, innovation in agri finance and logistics, development of efficient post-harvest technologies etc. have great potential to transform agriculture into an attractive profession. Affordable technology enabled India-centric solutions can help Indian farmers increase their productivity and income levels. I am glad that Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Tata Trusts have chosen IIT Kanpur as the technology partner for IAIN. IIT Kanpur's research expertise across departments with state-of-the-art infrastructure accessible to startups and incubator puts us in a unique position to address issues that can transform agriculture and livelihood of India”

Applications for Social Alpha Quest for Agritech Innovations are open starting today, log onto www.socialalpha.org/agritech to know more and apply.

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In India, the foundation focuses on four sectors: health, sanitation, financial services, and agricultural development and works with national and state governments, Indian businesses, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and development partners to generate economic growth for the benefit of all Indians. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

Since inception in 1892, Tata Trusts, India’s oldest philanthropic organisation, has played a pioneering role in bringing about an enduring difference in the lives of the communities it serves. Guided by the principles and the vision of proactive philanthropy of the Founder, Jamsetji Tata, the Trusts’ purpose is to catalyse development in the areas of healthcare and nutrition, water and sanitation, education, energy, rural upliftment, urban poverty alleviation, and arts, craft and culture. The Trusts’ programmes, achieved through direct implementation, partnerships and grant making, are marked by innovations, relevant to the country.

Social Alpha promotes innovations and entrepreneurship with a mission to create large scale sustainable social, economic and environmental impact. Social Alpha nurtures start-ups through their lab to market journey, helping them create high quality, commercially viable, accessible and affordable solutions. Social Alpha is focused on catalysing entrepreneurship for impact and provides critical technology and business incubation support to the mission driven start-ups.
SIDBI Innovation and Incubation Center, promoted by IIT Kanpur, is a Launchpad for purpose-driven entrepreneurs harnessing the power of innovation and technology. With the involvement of IIT Kanpur’s academic strength and a pool of India’s brightest minds in the network, SIIC is committed to pulling the best resources together to help innovators and entrepreneurs deliver audacious results. SIIC ecosystem has supported several successful startups in the last two decades such as HelpUsGreen, Curadev Biopharma, Weather-Risk, GeoKno, and Aarav Unmanned Systems and stands among the best technology business incubators in the country.
Collectives for the Integrated livelihood Initiatives (CInI), is a Society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. Established on May 17, 2007. It is an Associate Organization of the Tata Trusts, anchoring the Central India Initiative focusing on enhancing livelihoods of tribal communities. CInI currently operates in the states of Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra and Gujarat, and aims to transform the lives of more than 10000 small and marginal farmers in the Central India tribal belt, through building knowledge and scaling up programmes in thematic areas of agricultural productivity stabilization, forest-based livelihoods, water resource development, drinking water and sanitation, microfinance and strengthening community-based organisations.

For further details, please contact:

Nayantara Dutta

Tata Trusts


+91 98190 52768

Nikita Crasta

Adfactors PR


+91 9821071527