S4S Technologies was selected as the winner of the ‘The/Nudge Prize | Cisco Agri Challenge’, and Bioprime Agrisolutions emerged as the runner-up of the contest, which had called for ‘solutions to enhance the profitability of small scale farmers’, with 10-million-lives potential. The winners were identified by a grand jury aided by the Monitoring and Evaluation exercise conducted by Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA); and felicitated by Shri Manoj Ahuja, Agriculture Secretary, Government of India.
Cisco and The/Nudge Institute announced the challenge in December 2020 in partnership with the Office of the PSA, Govt. of India, with an aim to mobilize agri startups working towards income generation and sustainable livelihoods for small/ marginal farmers, while delivering positive economic, social, and environmental value.
The Grand Finale revealed the winning ideas and celebrated the work of these exceptional agri entrepreneurs. While the winning organization took home a prize money of INR 1 crore, the runner-up bagged Rs 25 lakhs, in addition to the milestone grants, further access to investors, mentors, knowledge and technology partners, and policy circle advisers, over the 18-month period of the program.
Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, commended ‘The/Nudge Prize| Cisco Agri Challenge’ program, saying, “It is heartening to see the leading technology company Cisco Systems and The/Nudge Institute driving innovation programs like Cisco Agri Challenge. Through this initiative, young Indian entrepreneurs are bringing innovation and affordable technologies to farmers. The Cisco Agri Challenge has successfully brought together private sector investors, government, citizens, society, and agriculture experts, apart from providing financial support to startups. The Central Government has also launched the Digital Agriculture Mission for providing technology-led solutions in the agriculture sector and the work of Cisco and The/Nudge Institute is a welcome step in this direction. I would like to congratulate the teams for this commendable work.”
Harish Krishnan, Managing Director & Chief Policy Officer, Cisco India and SAARC congratulated the participating start-ups and said, “I congratulate S4S Technologies and Bioprime, who have won the Cisco Agri Challenge. The objective of Cisco Agri Challenge is to inspire innovation that will enhance the profitability of small-scale farmers. This aligns with Cisco’s purpose to power an inclusive future for all. I want to thank the Principal Scientific Advisor’s office and Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare for their guidance and support. I would also like to thank The/Nudge Institute to have partnered with Cisco in organizing this challenge.”
Sudha Srinivasan, CEO, The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation shared that, “The Cisco Agri Challenge drew talent, technology, capital, and attention to the most pressing land, crop, infrastructure, market fulfillment, and social protection issues of small farmers, spurred by the pandemic. The challenge has spotlighted innovative ideas that will empower India to leapfrog in developing sustainable solutions for an inclusive economy, biodiversity preservation, environmental conservation, climate change, and regenerative agriculture. Congratulations to the winners of the challenge.”
The finalists, over the course of the challenge, have raised over ₹30 Crores from investors. In addition, many of them have won international awards and accolades. Takachar, which is on a mission to fight climate change and increase farmer incomes by drastically scaling the productive utilization of crop residues, was the recipient of the prestigious Earthshot Prize. Similarly, S4S Technologies, which is working on building a full-stack food processing platform, was recently awarded the Zyed Sustainability Prize.
Commenting on winning the prize, Nidhi Pant, Co-founder, S4S Technologies said, “Accepting the prize on behalf of our women farmers, team, partners and customers. We rise by lifting others – with any of our wins. At the end, our smallholder farmer gains. We are thankful to Govt. of India, The/Nudge Team and Cisco for all the support”. S4S Technologies is a food preservation company powered by UN award-winning solar drying technology. The majority of farmers in India face the issue of proper storage post-harvesting period, as a result of which their crop isn’t sold and eventually deteriorates.S 4S technologies accept grade B and grade C produce from farmers to produce preservative-free, dehydrated food having one year of shelf life. On one side, S4S provides chemical-free, nutritious products to consumers, and on the other side, it has created a positive impact on a farmer’s livelihood helping them increase their income by over 50%. The runner-up, Bioprime, offers relief to farmers worldwide, struggling with crop loss, temperature fluctuations, drought, resilient insects and diseases. To achieve this they are developing effective & affordable Agri biologicals with time-proven biomolecules, life-friendly chemistry, smart material and energy use.
Notable attendees at the event included Prof. Dharmendra Saraswat from Purdue University, Mr. Arun Seth (Chairman, NASSCOM Foundation), Mr. M K Khan (Chairman, ICFA), Mekhala Krishnamurthy (CPR, Ashoka), Mr. Ajai Choudhary (cofounder HCL), Dr. Chintan Vaishnav (Mission Director- AIM, NITI Aayog), Srivalli Krishnan (Sr. Program Officer – Global Development – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Vijay Mahajan(CEO, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation), Hemendra Mathur (Bharat Innovation Fund), members of the Brazilian embassy and 50+ guests representing the agri / Innovation ecosystem.
Throughout the program, participants were supported by an eminent circle of partners and experts like Mark Kahn (Managing Partner, Omnivore), Anil Kumar SG (Founder & CEO, Samunnati), Samit Ghosh (Founder, Ujjivan) and Shamika Ravi (Non-resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution). Knowledge and Technology Partners include NSRCEL, IIM Bangalore, Purdue University and Sattva Consulting.
Through the mentorship and guidance offered as part of the challenge, the eight finalists (Bioprime, Takachar, Ecozen, S4S Technologies, Whrrl, Khethworks, Dvara E-Dairy Solutions, Emertech Innovations) have gone on to accelerate their learning, refine their solutions and pivot their operations model to bring a stronger focus on smallholder farmers. From using blockchain technology to improve the agri value chain; to using clean-tech and IoT for precision agriculture, storage and market-linkage; and enabling affordable agri biologicals, these agri startups are setting the stage for scalable, breakthrough innovation in the agriculture sector, with sharp focus on the small/marginal farmer (86% of India’s farming community).