About Social Alpha Agritech Innovations Challenge 2.0
The agriculture and allied sector is the largest source of livelihoods in India. Yet, the situation for small holder category of farmers is extremely dire. The state of Uttar Pradesh alone accounts for 26% of India’s low-income farmers, magnifying the need for impactful development interventions.
The core objective of the Social Alpha Agritech Innovations Challenge 2.0 is to curate innovative technologies that positively impact the lives of smallholder farmers. Winners will receive support in their lab to last-mile journey, including sponsored pilots in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
The IAIN is an initiative supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Tata Trusts, in partnership with the Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI) and the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT Kanpur). It envisions to create an enabling ecosystem for innovators and entrepreneurs developing solutions for smallholder farmers in order to help them become more productive, profitable and empowered. In the first edition of the Social Alpha Agritech Innovations Challenge which was launched in 2019, 13 start-ups received incubation support, investments and piloting opportunities under IAIN.
Winners of the Agritech Innovation challenge will form a part of one of the following programs:
- Incubation Program for early stage start-ups – managed by SIIC, IIT Kanpur
- Venture Acceleration Program for mature stage start-ups – managed by Social Alpha
Calling for Innovations
01. Improving Productivity and Yield Intensification:
For farmers to prosper, quality farm inputs need to be available, accessible and affordable. Sub-standard quality of seeds and increased usage and cost of agrochemicals result in high input costs, polluted natural resources and reduced yields.
The Challenge seeks–
- Innovative, affordable and climate resilient inputs.
- innovative solutions that can improve the utilisation efficiency of agriculture inputs.
Mechanisation is critical to perform farm operations in time, decrease cost of operations, reduce drudgery, increase the input efficiency and improve yield and quality of the produce. Mechanisation technologies need to be climate resilient and aspirational for small holders to manage ‘agriculture as a business’.
The Challenge seeks technological solutions that can address challenges specific to crops such as Sugarcane, Paddy, wheat and Horticulture
- Assist smallholder farmers with precise farm tools in the process of land preparation, inputs application, inter cultivation, plant protection and harvesting, etc. in the agriculture value chain
- Technologies should be affordable, easy to use, women farmer-friendly, suitable to local soil, less dependent on fuel/fuel-efficient and service-oriented mechanisation for small land parcels.
Increased production costs and climate change are posing significant threat to farmers income. Lack of knowledge on financial safety and access to financial services that could fulfill needs of small holder farmers is creating a negative financial impact on the farmers. Affordable and accessible financial services are a way to reduce the farmers distress and to stabilize the income.
The challenge seeks:
- Innovative and affordable financial services to enable access to long & short-term credit, crop insurance and inputs for small holder farmers.
Agriculture production is suffering from degrading soil health, plant diseases, water stress and vulnerable to climate change due to changing rainfall patterns and temperatures. Climate resilient agriculture, crop health monitoring and mitigation intelligence has the potential to help smallholder farmers in safeguarding income.
The Challenge seeks innovative technologies that-
- Promote scientific and eco-friendly crop cultivation solutions to overcome vulnerabilities due to extreme cold and heat, floods and droughts.
- Precision farming technologies to monitor crop growth and health to deliver actionable intelligence to reduce the crop loses.
- Integrated hyperlocal weather forecasting models to deliver real-time insights for better farm level decision making right from land preparation to harvesting.
Significant amount of crop is damaged every year due to frequent attacks by domestic animals (cattle, bulls, etc.) wild animals (nilgai, pigs, etc.) monkeys, birds and rodents. Current practices and solutions are ad-hoc and have a short span of keeping animals at bay, rendering them ineffective.
The Challenge seeks a comprehensive one-stop affordable solution which is innovative, intelligent and animal-friendly to protect the crops from animal attacks.
Ground water crisis, inefficient water pumping and delivery systems are putting farmers at higher vulnerability and resulting in reduced crop yield, water shortage and higher irrigation costs. Accessibility and availability of water for irrigation on time and intelligent irrigation delivery and management systems could enhance the productivity and income for farmers.
The Challenge seeks-
- User friendly, affordable and efficient irrigation management techniques to improve the water use efficiency.
- Water harvesting, management and recharge technologies.
- Smart micro irrigation and biodegradable mulch technologies.
02. Better post-harvest loss management and value-added activities:
Poor post-harvest handling practices, and in-accessible, non-efficient and poor infrastructure across the supply chain results in significant post-harvest losses. The current high cost cold storage facilities and centralized storage technologies restricts the farmers from preventing post-harvest losses and realize better market value.
The Challenge seeks innovations for improving the shelf life of produce and enhancing the holding capacities of small holder farmers and collectives through:
- Decentralized, affordable and modular energy efficient storage facilities for perishable and non-perishable commodities.
- Innovative technologies to reduce storage losses and enhance the shelf-life of farm produce naturally.
Demand for good quality produce is growing progressively. The current process of quality detection, manual sorting and grading system have downside of time consuming and cost intensive methods. Access to on farm post-harvest value added primary processing technologies ensures better price realisation for farmer collectives.
The Challenge seeks to address the sorting & grading issues through:
- Advanced technologies to analyse the quality of produce for better price realisation.
- Affordable and accessible sorting and grading machines suitable for smallholder farmers & collectives for better price realisation
- Energy efficient micro processing technologies to convert highly perishable crops into value added products at the farmgate.
Crop residue burning damages soil nutrients, organic quality of the soil, solubility capacity and micro-organisms in the upper layer and leads to environmental pollution and adds the layer of impenetrable ash at the field level.
The Challenge seeks comprehensive technology solutions for:
- Low cost mechanisms to identify and aggregate crop residue to generate additional source of income for farmers.
- Technological interventions and scalable business models to upcycle crop residue, fruit and vegetable waste into value added products
- Efficient and climate resilient technologies for in-situ management of crop residue for enhancing and protecting soil health.
03. Enhancing the Rural livelihoods through Agri-allied activities
Diversification through allied activities like fisheries, rearing of small and large ruminants etc. have the ability to de-risk and augment the farmers income. However, increased production costs and inefficient market access across the value chains limits the adoption by smallholder farmers.
The Challenge seeks-
- Technological solutions to improve the productivity of livestock and enable access to consistent markets for better price realisation.
- Better access to inputs (fishlings, food), affordable equipment’s (RAS, Bioflocs, etc), advisory for efficient implementation of fisheries based livelihoods, and access to markets for better price realisation.
Who Should Apply
Innovators & Start-ups with science and technology based innovative solution that have the potential to create an impact in the lives of smallholder farmers and demonstrate business model sustainability.
We are inviting applications for the following two programme streams :
Incubation Program for early stage start-ups – managed by SIIC, IIT-Kanpur
The program aims to support entrepreneurs in primarily in the areas of product development and testing. This would target the following in terms of Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
- TRL 3 – Proof of Concept stage / Active R&D has been initiated. This includes analytical studies and laboratory studies to physically validate the analytical predictions of separate elements of the technology.
- TRL 4 – Basic technological components have been integrated to establish that they work together.
- TRL 5 – Technology has been put together and can be tested in a simulated environment.
- TRL 6 – Prototype is being tested in simulated operational environment or in a high-fidelity laboratory
Venture Acceleration Program for mature stage start-ups – managed by Social Alpha
Start-ups will receive support with pilots, product validation, product management and Go-To-Market Strategy. This would target the following start-ups in terms of Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
- TRL 7 – Actual system prototype is near completion or ready and has been demonstrated in an operational environment or is at pilot level
- TRL 8 – Technology is proven and developed but not yet operational or applied anywhere.
- TRL 9 – Technology has been applied in its final form and is operational
- The product is already in the market and can be scaled or replicated
Launch of Social Alpha Agritech Innovations Challenge
November 30th, 2020
Deadline for applications
January 17th, 2021
Virtual interviews for top 60 applications
Jury round for top 25; Grand finale; Announcement of winners
Orientation launchpad and start of pre-incubation
Frequently Asked Questions
Social Alpha Agritech Innovations Challenge 2.0 is a search for innovators and entrepreneurs with transformative technologies that address a curated set of challenges faced by the smallholder farmers. Individuals, group of individuals, social enterprises and start-ups registered in India (whether for-profit or not-for-profit) are eligible to apply for the program.
Applicants are requested to select the most appropriate category based on the development stage/technology readiness level of the product. TRL 3 to 6 need to apply to the Physical Incubation program for Early Stage start-ups. TRL 7 and above would need to apply to the Venture Acceleration Program for Matured Stage start-ups. Please select the category carefully since the application forms will have some unique questions.
In case you apply to the wrong category we will shift you to the right category based on your product’s stage of development. However, you may have missed some questions that had to be answered as a part of the correct category since both the application forms have certain unique questions. So, you are advised to please choose carefully.
Applicants are encouraged to submit applications for technology-based. The Innovation may be a product, platform or service, but must be aligned to the focus areas outlined in the program. There is a preference for technology-based innovations that have a high social impact potential.
Yes, you may apply if your technology satisfies the category in Q2. Please note that finalists of the Social Alpha Agritech Innovations Challenge 2.0 will be required to participate in evaluation sessions where they will have to present to the jury. This may require the physical attendance at the convening location or remote demonstration/participation and may interfere with college schedules. It is recommended that this is taken into consideration at the time of application.
Yes, applicants can submit multiple applications, but each application must feature a distinct problem statement/technology/process/innovation. However, in the final decision, only one application (if selected) will be considered per enterprise.
The first month of the program is cohort-driven. As part of the cohort there will be an orientation launchpad which includes opportunities to attend knowledge sessions and seminars, interact with mentors and experts, and meet potential investors organized by the IAIN ecosystem. Dedicated agri-business experts will map an in-depth incubation plan for the winners. The structure, nature and duration of incubation will vary depending on the winner’s unique needs. Those incubated will be eligible for financial support and/or piloting opportunities subject to successful due diligence.
The program is a typically a 12-24-month long engagement. However, it will vary from case to case based on the needs of the incubatees. Promising Early-stage start-ups supported will also have the opportunity to move to the Matured stage, upon successful completion of milestones and may continue to receive incubation support for a longer duration.
Winners will receive an incubation programme covering one or many of the following depending on their need's assessment.
Programme offerings for Venture Acceleration Program for mature stage start-ups
- Access to paid pilots in Uttar Pradesh with practical on-the-ground feedback
- Credits worth up to 10 Lakhs to avail incubation services
- Access to Social Alpha’s seed investment and / or grants funding
- Access to state-of-the-art technology incubation centre at IIT-Kanpur and incubation infrastructure at Social Alpha
- Dedicated Portfolio Management to assist with developing go-to-market strategy and overall business advisory
- Product development support including assistance with designing, rapid prototyping and design for manufacturing
Programme offerings for Incubation Program for early-stage start-ups
- Product development support and access to equipment and technical expertise from IIT-Kanpur
- Access to shared office space and amenities at IIT Kanpur
- Access to grants such as BIRAC, PRAYAS, PRISM etc.
- Access to state-of-the-art technology with high quality labs, equipment at IIT Kanpur’s Incubator facility:
|Vertical Electronic Unit||Bacteriological Incubator||Biosafety cabinet for mammalian cell culture|
|Micropipettes set||Biochemical Analyzer||High Speed centrifuge|
|Tabletop Centrifuge, Non-Refrigerated||Osmometer||Liquid Nitrogen|
|Elisa Reader||Inverted Bright Field Microscope Camera||Analytical Balance|
|CO2 Incubator||Inverted Bright Field Microscope||HPLC|
|Laminar Air Flow for Bacterial Work||12 Channel Auto Pipette||Horizontal cylindrical autoclave|
|Vertical Autoclave-Separator||Ice making machine||Chromatography refrigerator|
|UV-VIS Spectrometer||Liquid nitrogen storage system-animal cell line storage||Microprocessor controlled refrigerated table top centrifuge|
|Gel Documents System 2D||PCR||Vortex|
|Deionized Water Plant||3L Microbial fermenter/fermenter||-20 Deg refrigerator|
|Circulating Water Bath Digital||Lab scale liquid chromatography system||Refrigerator|
|Conductivity Meter||CO2 Incubator shaker floor|
|-80 Deg Deep Freezer storage||3L Cell Culture Bioreactor Unit|
|Incubator shaker (Microbial) High Precision||Western Blot Unit|
Winners of the Early stage incubation program will necessarily be physically located at IIT-Kanpur. As part of the program, there may be a requirement to attend certain sessions in person. The winners will be required to attend the orientation launchpad, relevant workshops, events and demo days during the incubation period physically/virtually depending upon the ongoing pandemic situation. Unless there is a pre-communicated genuine and unavoidable reason for absence, winners/incubatees missing most of the program will not only lose the actual benefits of their selection but may also be reconsidered for continuing with the program.
Mentoring, as part of the continuous engagement with the winners of the Social Alpha Agritech Innovations Challenge, will be provided free of charge.
There will be regular interface between the winning teams and the IAIN implementation team. Each start-up will be allocated a portfolio manager to help with customized requests who will continually and regularly engage with the start-ups.
Decided on a case-to-case basis, eligible incubated start-ups will get access to grants for pilot implementation with our partners in Uttar Pradesh. Eligible incubated start-ups of the Social Alpha Agritech Innovations Challenge 2.0 might be considered for follow-on funding under the IAIN, subject to successful due diligence and investment committee approval. Each programme stream offers multiple funding opportunities that startups can explore and includes grants as well as equity and debt financing.
Yes, the winning start-ups can find other funding partners.
- 30th November 2020: Launch of Social Alpha Agritech Innovations Challenge
- 17th January 2021: Deadline for applications
- January 2021: Initial evaluation
- January 2021: Virtual interviews for top 60 applications
- Mid-February 2021: Jury round for top 25; Grand finale; Announcement of winners
- March 2021 onwards: Orientation launchpad and start of pre-incubation
- March 2021: Incubation for next 12-24 months; Funding opportunity
No, applications submitted post the stated deadline will not be considered for evaluation.
Terms and Conditions
Please read the following terms and conditions before submitting your entry:
- Participating or proposed ventures should be independent entities, meaning that they should not be a subsidiary of an existing corporation or have legal ties to a government body.
- Existing non-profits can participate; however, they should propose a venturing idea or a plan to transform their existing solutions into a more sustainable solution.
- As the Challenge is looking for start-ups to work on product development and / or establishing marketing channels for existing products, and not research, only those with developed ideas and/or prototypes should apply.
- The applicant should be a registered company /willing to be registered in India. The shareholding by Indian promoters in the company should be at least 51%.
Submissions and Participation
- Submissions which are incomplete will be deemed void and disqualified from the Challenge evaluations.
- Submissions should be the original work of the participant/participating entity and should demonstrate positive social or environmental impact, have a disruptive technology innovation with potential to be sustainable and scalable in India (though not exclusively in the region).
- Participants who are determined to be ‘Finalists’, ranked in the final evaluation stage might be required to send at least one core member for the final round of evaluations (conditional to the current pandemic situation).
- Winners agree to the use of their names, photographs, disclosure of their country of residence; and are required to cooperate with any other reasonable requests by the organiser relating to any publicity-related activities.
- Winners are required to submit a declaration of good standing and solvency at the final stage of evaluation. If there is any change in circumstance that invalidates their good standing and solvency, the team is to immediately inform the organisers.
- All participants own the rights to their ideas. Participants must properly acknowledge any trademarks, patented or copyrighted materials of others that are incorporated into the submission materials. Participants are responsible for obtaining any necessary permission before utilizing such materials into their submissions.
- Submitted ideas are protected in the spirit of non-disclosure, and all submitted materials will be treated as company confidential. The only people with access to the entry materials will be evaluators/judges, partners and select members of the organising committee. Materials will not be distributed to any other party unless requested by a participant. No other provisions are made to protect intellectual property.
- Participants are advised not to disclose critical information which would affect a successful filing of patent(s). All presentations are open to the general public, and some presentations may be videotaped. Attendance by media personnel is expected in the final stages of the program. Any data or information discussed or divulged in public sessions by participants should be considered information that will likely enter the public realm, and entrants should not assume any right of confidentiality in any data or information discussed, divulged or presented in these sessions.
Decisions regarding the winners
- The selection of the ‘Winners’ is at the sole discretion of the judges and the organisers from Social Alpha and partnering organisations. Best efforts will be made to make decisions in accordance with this document.
- Throughout any and all phases of the Challenge, all decisions of the judges are final.
Disqualification and Organiser’s Right to Amend Competition Rules
- The organisers of the Challenge reserve the right to disqualify any participant who is found to have violated the spirit of the Challenge guidelines and terms and conditions stated herein. Disqualified participants shall forfeit any and all prizes awarded to them.
- The organisers reserve the right to amend these rules at any point before the Closing Date of the Challenge in line with the overall goal of the Challenge.
- The indicated dates for the Challenge may be revised at any point of time by the organisers. Any change in schedule will be suitably intimated on the Challenge webpage and on other relevant platforms.
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
For any assistance needed in filling the application form, please reach out to us at