Sustainable Agriculture: reducing the gap between theory and practice
In an interview with SMART AGRIPOST, Prof K.P Singh, Vice Chancellor, Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agriculture University (HAU) says the University provides right platform for the Agri-start ups and helps bridging the gap of classroom and field level practices with regards to innovation of technologies in agriculture.
Please tell us about the start up summit in university?
Ans. It’s a two day national start up summit, and the basic genesis of the programme is connected to the experiential learning pogrammes we are having in all agriculture universities. It is a very good initiative by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
We have more applied aspects, we have technology transfer units, business planning units, experiential learning units in agriculture universities. So considering that, honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a clarion call to the youths to participate in the start-up initiative.
So this was the motive behind the start up summit where 22 agricultural universities along with their students and faculty members had participated. They are coming with their ideas and also success stories. Recently we have attached our labs with commercial units, either with private partners, industries or farmer producer organizations.
So our work is to find ways of research, develop food variety, develop food linkage line ups and transfer it into a commercial environment having a sound business model. We have asked all our students to participate in such programme and gain experience.
We have designed 16 models in different aspects like vegetable grafting, nursery grazing, bakery, bio fertilizers, crop residue management, customized fertilizers, and we want to strengthen these units.
What are difficulties students facing to start a commercial venture?
Ans. Basic constraint among the students prevailing is that there has always been a gap between classroom teaching and field level application, so I think we have taken up the challenge and we have been quite successful as well. The students are coming up with good ideas, in fact some of them are better than the faculty members.
But the issue is they have ideas, not the infrastructure. They don’t know how to form a company, what the liabilities of a company are, what documents are required and how to raise funds for the business. So we are giving them all kinds of supports and handholding, and banks are telling them their requirements and conditions. We are also inviting some chartered accountants, who are briefing them about the basic requirements for establishing a company, and we are sharing our ideas in this platform too.
We have created some successful entrepreneurs. They have successfully established their business enterprises across Bangalore, Noida, Ghaziabad, Haryana and Gurgaon. Basically, the students of agricultural universities come from rural background; they are very hardworking, laborious, dedicated and very honest also. But they are lacking the basic skill to communicate with banks and other financial institutions, knowhow of agricultural legislation, how to form a company or society etc, so we are giving them overall exposure to improve their capacity.
Is this University’s first initiative to connect agri-entrepreneurs?
Ans. Yes, this is the first biggest agro innovation centre of North India we are establishing at Hisar. So here also we are getting feedbacks about different challenges. We will try to resolve the problems, and we will try to give trainings to the farmers and the students to handle their own business.
Very interestingly, there was one small group of B.Sc students, who insisted that they want to do something while they were studying, so that they could earn something. And they told me the idea that they wanted to import the mother plants of straw berries from Florida, and they would create the daughter plants here. The cost of importing one plant Is 30 to 40 rupees, while from 1 plant they could create 30 to 40 more plants, so even if they sold the plants for 5 rupees per plant, they would be in profit. So more students are coming and pursuing their own business.
I don’t know how much benefit the central government or the state government has given, but the biggest benefit across the universities is the students are looking for their own business. They have a tendency to create their own business. Now they are not inclined for the jobs as much as they were earlier.
What are the new innovations developed by the university and what are the prospects of commercialization?
Ans. Honestly speaking the basic problem of our education system is that majority of the people know about the technology, they have very good plan on the paper, but where they fail is they are not able to translate the things on the ground.
We have more ideas. But we are not good implementers, that is the biggest problem. We are putting our efforts and strategies on how to implement the ideas.
People know about technologies. There are so many people who are doing protected cultivation, micro irrigation..etc, but the major problem here is that they are highly dependent on companies, and companies grab the opportunity and sell them, they are not interested to make them functional.
In our country there is a huge graveyard of instruments. We have huge numbers of instruments. They buy the instruments, but they don’t make it functional. But our main focus is to transfer technologies to grass root level entrepreneurs.
We have identified a few areas in our university, and we will try to have our agro business incubation centres. For example, we have established a very good unit of commercial mushroom production. We have established a very good unit of artificial intelligence and robotics.
So it is important to understand different kinds of equipments and technologies available in the market , and how they can be used in production. For example, grafting requires a lot of man power which is difficult to manage. So the knowhow of using the robotics in grafting is one of the examples. We have identified about 20 such technologies which can be transferred to farmers and entrepreneurs. We are happy that FPOs, especially youths, are coming forward with their initiatives.