Acharya NG Ranga Agriculture University in Andhra Pradesh, one of the leading institutions in the country, for some reasons, has been lagging behind in rankings for the past few years. However, after professor A Vishnuvardhan Reddy took over as its Vice-Chancellor in August last year, the university’s ranking jumped from 31st among the 74 agriculture universities and institutions in the country to 13th at present, thanks to his target-oriented approach and stress on research. Vishnuvardhan Reddy, who ensured the varsity got two patents in the last 11 months, says his target is to make the varsity one among the top five agriculture universities in the country. Excerpts from the interview.
That was quite a turnaround from rank 31 to rank 13. How was it achieved?
ANGRAU has always been a leading agriculture varsity, but for some reasons, it has been lagging behind in rankings. After I took over in August, I held review meetings with all varsity officials and analysed the progress on education, research and extension, the three spheres of activities the varsity is mandated with. I found that everything was there for the varsity to be ranked among the top and the only thing needed was its achievements need to be presented properly and improvement in certain areas. I ensured that the achievements of the varsity are clearly tabulated as per the criteria for rankings, so it is clearly reflected in the scorecard. Academic performance in all-India competitions, teaching methodology, research activities reflected through publications in journals, collaborative research, tie-ups with national and international institutions and technology transfer to farmers for increasing their incomes are considered for rankings. Our efforts paid off and our rank has been improved to 13. It was a morale booster. Now, our target is to feature among the top five agriculture universities in the country.
The time you took over was a critical period, with Covid pandemic impacting every sphere of activities. How have you managed academics in the varsity?
We were left with no choice, but to adopt online teaching. In fact, we took advantage of the crisis and top subject experts have been taking classes for our students. Our PG and PhD students benefited from it, as they got exposed to international experts. Further, we signed MoUs with leading research institutions in the country and abroad to have our PhD students continue their research with those institutions. As they stand exposed to cutting-edge research, they get the benefit and indirectly, the varsity benefits. We are contemplating continuing the system even after the Covid-19 pandemic ends.
Stress is now on the transfer of technology to the farmers, ie, labs to lands. What has ANGRAU been doing in that direction?
Our varsity has always been an integral part of the farming community. Whatever we do is for the development of the agriculture sector. We help farmers improve their income levels and get a good yield. Extension activities and dissemination of knowledge to the farmers has been our prime focus. Now, with Rythu Bharosa Kendras set up in the state, we have linked with them and on a daily basis we are providing advisory, helping farmers update their knowledge on various aspects. All our research stations, DTCs and KVKs, have been integrated in this aspect.
You say you have been active in the lab to land aspects. Any new recent achievements in that regard?
Twenty-four different varieties of crops developed by the varsity have been notified and gradually they will be taken to the farmers to improve productivity. Seed is the most important thing in agriculture and we are focusing on its quality. In 2019-20, the varsity supplied 16,000 quintals of breeder seeds to the farmers and after I took over, we improved it to 43,000 quintals today, a two-and-a-half times increase. Now, we set a target of 1 lakh quintals of seeds. We are involving RBKs in production and supply of breeder seeds, cultivation of foundation seed, their procurement and distribution of certified seeds to the farmers.
Emphasis on research saw the university bag two patents. Can you elaborate?
We are proud that we got two patents. The first patent is for machinery and process of manufacturing of cane jaggery in crystal form and the second one for the process of preparing dehydrated fruit bar from prickly pear fruits (Opuntia Ficus Indica) and product thereof. The second one was developed in association with SV University.
What are the future plans?
I am encouraging my students, research scholars and staff to focus on research, collaborative research and projects and extension activities. Our goal is not only to achieve top rank but also to become self-sufficient, financially.