SMP-2021 | Investigating opportunities for Dutch agrifoodtech knowledge to help transform Indian agrifood systems

Bert van ReesSMP-projecten

Project title: Investigating opportunities for Dutch agrifoodtech knowledge to help transform Indian agrifood systems
Project number: SMP-2021
Requesting country: India
Year: 2020
Budget: € 40,000
Project leader: Aneesh Chauhan
Knowledge institute: Wageningen University & Research
Project partners: Berg Hortimotive, DIGIOTAI Solutions, Dutch Greenhouse Delta, Govt. of Telangana, Greenport West-Holland, ICRISAT-IN, IMEC, LT Food, Polarisk, Precify, SAIA Agrobotics, Simply Fresh


Summary
Green Revolution spearheaded India from a food importing nation towards a food secure, self-sufficient and a food exporting one. This led to agriculture being one of the most important sectors, which currently contributes to 14% of India’s GDP, 11% of total exports and is the primary source of livelihood for more than 50% of Indian population. Furthermore, India is now the second largest producer of agri-food products, feeding more than 1.39 billion people. This, however, is a partial picture of an agri-food system which in actuality is facing significant challenges, like:

  1. Climate change leading to unpredictable and increased incidences of abiotic (flooding, drought, heat, etc.) and biotic (fungal, bacterial and pest) stresses affecting productivity and leading to increased pesticide usage.
  2. Resource intensive agriculture practices leading to freshwater depletion and soil degradation.
  3. Considerable food losses during harvest and postharvest stages leading to a further reduction in food availability and issues around food safety.
  4. Lag in increasing fruit, vegetable and protein production to match the demands of the burgeoning urban
    population (from food security to nutrition security).
  5. Lack of knowledge, technical know-how and networks with regards to leveraging and adopting latest agrifood technologies to resolve the above-mentioned issues.

In this project we aim to look at high-tech solutions, suited to Indian context, to address these challenges. The main driver here is the AgroFood Robotics1 (AFR) group of Wageningen University and Research (WUR). AFR specializes in artificial intelligence and sensing, especially spectral, learning and vision, applied to open field, horticulture, fresh chains and food domains. In the past year, AFR has drawn attention of many Indian stakeholders in search of high-tech solutions for their agri-food processes and has held preliminary high-level discussions with Indian stakeholders as listed:

  • Sensor-assisted Decision Support Systems (DSS) for early pest detection (challenge 1) – LT foods, a major rice exporter; Precify, an Indian precision-agri startup.
  • Cost and Resource efficient farming for small-farm management (challenge 2) – Precify and Digiotai, both startups in the area of precision agriculture.
  • On-field plant phenotyping technologies for Indian crop systems (challenges 1-4): ICRISAT India.
  • Customized greenhouse horticulture integrating hydroponics and vertical farming, and leveraging sensors and robotics to boost indoor vegetable and leafy green production (challenges 2 and 4): Simply Fresh (a fully automated hydroponic glass greenhouse), Sri Konda Laxman Telangana Horticultural University (SKLTHU) in collaboration with Govt. of Telangana
  • Bringing together knowledge partners like WUR, ICRISAT and SKLTHU to address challenge 5.

There is an urgent demand to leverage novel non-destructive sensing technologies , AI, machine (deep) learning and robotics to address these challenges. The nascency of Indian AgFoodTech industry opens opportunities for Dutch industry and knowledge institutions:

  • For sensors and related tech: IMEC NL, Polariks
  • For greenhouse related tech and robotics: Dutch Greenhouse Delta, Berg Hortimotive, SAIA and Greenport West-Holland
  • Knowledge and expertise pertaining to sensing, AI and Robotics to agri-food domain: WUR

On the other hand, experience of Indian industry, especially to provide cost-efficient high-tech services to small farm holders, will give valuable insights to Dutch partners.

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