BENGALURU: In a move to give a fillip to farmers and agri-sector start-ups, Marico Innovation Foundation (MIF), the not-for-profit organisation of Marico Limited, has launched ‘Innovate2Cultivate’. Through the programme, which will focus on the agricultural sector, the foundation would work with innovators who can help in increasing the productivity and income of farmers.
In the initial stage, MIF will focus on coconut farmers in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It aims to bring together farmers and start-ups that can work in tandem to increase coconut production.“Our aim is to bring agri-innovations to scale and double farmers’ income through an increase in productivity. In the first stage, we will focus on the coconut farmers, as their increased production will also help our parent company to source one of our major raw materials,” said MIF head Priya Kapadia.
The larger objective of the programme is to solve current agricultural challenges for the crop with the help of innovations and bring relevant ecosystems together to support innovations.However, the foundation is not planning to focus only on one crop. “This is a first-of-its-kind programme, so we chose coconut. If it turns successful, then the same model can be taken to other crops in the years to come, and even to other sectors. For example, if potato production goes up, other players like PepsiCo can benefit from it,” Kapadia said.
MIF has so far received about 90 applications from various innovative start-ups and is in the final stages of selecting the companies. The foundation is looking for start-ups with a business potential and innovations — be it product, process or service — that can solve the challenges faced by coconut farmers.
The innovations can be also in areas of soil health management, water harvesting techniques, pest management, identifying new cropping systems, improving sapling and seed quality, among others.The foundation has brought on board experts from IIM Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship, Omnivore Partners, Villgro, Social Alpha, Indian Angel Network, Ankur Capital and Marico, among others on the panel to select innovative start-ups.The first phase of the ground project with coconut farmers is now planned in Pollachi in Tamil Nadu.