Additional Secretary, Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India, Dr. Abhilaksh Likhi, interacted with farmers at the Precision Farming Development Centre created under National Committee on Precision Agriculture & Horticulture (NCPAH). He also visited the RKVY- RAFTAAR Agri-startup Agribusiness Incubator (R-ABI) and the Integrated Beekeeping Development Centre (IBDC) at the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU), Coimbatore.
Government of India has set up 22 Precision Farming Development Centres (PFDCs) in all the agro-climatic zones of the country with an aim to develop and disseminate regionally differentiated technologies on precision agriculture such as micro irrigation and hi-tech agriculture such as vertical farming, hydroponics, aeroponics, protected cultivation and plasticulture and to maximise production and productivity per unit area to enhance the socio-economic conditions of farmers and end users. These 22 PFDCs are located in State/Central Agricultural Universities (SAUs), ICAR institutes and IITs in the states of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Telangana, West Bengal, Ladakh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttrakhand, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Assam.
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Dr. Likhi visited the Precision Farming Development Centre (PFDC) at the TNAU, Coimbatore. The major achievements of PFDC Coimbatore are that it has conducted research on thrust areas like drip irrigation, plastic mulching, pond lining, greenhouse, cladding material, sprinkler irrigation, fertigation, drip automation, GIS and soilless media. Research in these technologies has been conducted in crops namely Amaranthus, banana, bhindi (lady’s finger), bitter gourd, brinjal, cabbage, capsicum, castor, red gram, cauliflower, chilli, coconut, cotton, cucumber, flower crops, papayas, paprika, tomato, turmeric and groundnut.
Dr. Likhi also visited the RKVY-RAFTAAR Agribusiness Incubator (R-ABI) at the university. This incubation facility promotes agri-startups. DA&FW has appointed five knowledge partners (KPs) as Centre of Excellence and 24 RKVY-RAFTAAR Agribusiness Incubators (R-ABIs) across the country of which Technology Business Incubator (TBI), TNAU, Coimbatore is one. These knowledge partners have been appointed for implementation assistance and advice on the smooth and efficient execution of the scheme, handholding of R-ABIs and implementing a Centre of Excellence to demonstrate best practices to the agri-startup ecosystem. Five knowledge partners across the country are (a) National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad; (b) National Institute of Agricultural Marketing (NIAM), Jaipur; (c) Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Pusa, New Delhi; (d) University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Karnataka and (e) Assam Agriculture University, Jorhat, Assam.
So far, 1055 agri-startups during FY-2019-22 to 2022-23 have been finally selected by different knowledge partners and agribusiness incubators of DA&FW and Rs. 109.32 crores as grants in aid has been recommended.
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Under TBI, TNAU, Coimbatore, three Cohorts of Agriprenuership Orientation Programme (AOP) and Start-up Incubation Programme (SAIP) have been completed successfully and 300 Startups have been trained. 41 Startups have been provided with grants of Rs. 3.87 crores.
Finally, he visited the Integrated Beekeeping Development Centre (IDBC) at TNAU. TNAU is conducting training to farmers using the facilities created under IBDC. About 3000 farmers were trained in the last four years. The disease diagnostic laboratory is functioning with PCR, Centrifuge, gel documentation and other equipment. The honey processing unit is functioning and they process their honey as well as honey from farmers. TNAU is having more than 150 hives of Indian honeybee (Apis cerana indica), about 20 hives of Apis mellifera and about 40 hives of stingless bees in their apiary and university campus. Rs. 138.28 lakhs have been sanctioned to Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore for setting up of Integrated Beekeeping Development Centre (IBDC) during 2017-18.
Dr. Likhi while interacting with farmers, beekeepers, agri-entrepreneurs and students emphasised that extensive extension efforts must be initiated by all stakeholders to ensure maximum outreach of agricultural technologies and related innovations amongst small and marginal farmers.