Ag-Food Start-Ups in Punjab to Get Govt Support
Punjab is indeed a leader in primary agriculture, with nearly 20% of India’s wheat and 12% of rice production to its credit.
The last decade has seen the state shift gears and march towards secondary agriculture, with over 53 mega food processing projects and over 20,000 micro and small agri-food industrial units. To further boost this sector and to make technological advancements available to the secondary agriculture industry, the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology (PSCST) in association with Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) has launched a first of its kind “Secondary Agriculture/Food Processing Entrepreneurial Network” in Punjab. The formal launch of the initiative took place in Chandigarh.
Executive director, Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, Jatinder Kaur Arora said, “With Mohali home to some of the leading research and development institutes in the country like National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) and Centre of Innovative and Applied Bioprocessing (CIAB), we wanted to connect them to the stakeholders in the secondary agriculture industry. We have got full support from department of biotechnology in the ministry of science of technology and BIRAC.”
This new network will see PSCST as a ‘lead institute’ and NABI, CIAB and the BioNEST at Panjab University as the partner institutions. To get things underway, BIRAC has sanctioned Phase-1 of the project comprising of two years. “We would be focusing on two sectors initially – fruit and vegetable processing and cereal and grain processing,” said Arora. Also, as part of the initiative, the network would assess the unmet needs of the agri-food industry and develop technological solutions to address the same. Arora said, “We will offer innovation fellowships to five students who would be groomed to look at the needs of the industry to help us address them.”
With start-ups being the buzzword everywhere, this entrepreneurial network aims to act as a support system for start-ups in the secondary agriculture/food processing sector too. BIRAC will support five start-ups to start with a financial aid of Rs 50 lakh per start-up.
Renu Swarup, secretary, department of biotechnology, ministry of science and technology, BIRAC, has been supporting start-ups nationwide but it was for the first time under this project that a state-specific call has been given for supporting start-ups in secondary agriculture domain. She said “We had a successful run with a similar project in healthcare and in the backdrop of the national nutrition mission, such a network is a step in the right direction.”
T R Sharma, executive director, NABI & CEO, CIAB, makes a strong case for how technologies for development of value-added products can be of good use to the secondary agri-food industry.
Sharma said, “At the CIAB, we have been focusing on value-addition to food and have filed 35 patents. Five patents have already been commercialized. At the NABI, we created anthocyanin rich wheat and edible coating of fruit and vegetable made using wheat straw and oat bran used to increase shelf life. A company from Pune has put it to use for exporting grapes and pomegranate and locally, in Chandigarh, baker Monica Sood has used the anthocyanin rich wheat flour to create products. This is the kind of interaction and connect that will go a long way.” CIAB is also working on utilisation of whey waste to develop cellulose.
The network launch also saw Karan Avtar Singh, chief secretary, Punjab, in attendance along with stakeholders in the food processing industry and experts from various research institutions.