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Swati Saxena

Senior Science and Innovation Adviser

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network UK in India

8th December 2016 New Delhi, India

‘Smart’ farming – way ahead – UK India agritech partnership

1We need to produce more food with less land and fewer resources.  These challenges mean that new agricultural science and technology is needed. Precision farming combines technology with livestock and crop science to improve agricultural practice. One effect is on yields: precision agriculture (PA) allows farmers to extract as much value as possible from every seed. PA techniques also hold the promise of minimising the environmental impact of farming, since it reduces waste and uses less energy.

Owing to its research strengths in areas such as soil and crop science, robotics and ICT, UK has a tremendous potential to emerge as a world leading provider of products and services related to PA techniques. The Agri-tech Catalyst funding scheme as set up by the UK government to help businesses and researchers commercialise their research and develop innovative solutions to global challenges in the agri-tech sector, have funded a number of projects in the precision agriculture area. The UK government has also funded new centres for agricultural innovation – Agrimetrics which will study data from across the food chain and enable easier access to data sets from across the agri-food sector and provide modeling and analysis services to industry.

Another such centre is the Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre (Agri EPI Centre) which proposes to help the UK’s agri-food sector develop advanced technologies that will increase productivity and sustainability in UK agriculture. In a recent visit to India, as organised by Science and Innovation Network (SIN) India, this Centre was well represented through participation of UK researchers from the Cranfield University, Dr Ronald Cortanje and the National Centre for Precision Farming, Harper Adams University – Dr Richard Green and Dr Mark Rutter. Both Harper Adams University and Cranfield University are core members of this agritech innovation centre. Mark Swainson from National Centre for Food Manufacturing, University of Lincoln had also joined them. This UK delegation was visiting India on a scoping mission, to understand potential opportunities existing in India which could lead to development of collaborative initiatives in this area.
Their visit begun with an intensive roundtable with Indian stakeholders from academia, industry as well as government, which resulted in not only informing the participants about the existing landscape in both the countries but also resulted into a clear list of ideas for potential collaborations. Further interactions with Indian contacts were also organised during a panel discussion on agritech which was organised during recently held India-UK TECH Summit, the flagship event in the 2016 UK-India calendar. SIN India team also organised site visits to three research centres of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) – Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Delhi; Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering (CIAE) and Indian Institute of Soil Sciences (IISS), Bhopal. These visits provided the delegates with a rich insight into ongoing research activities related to PA in India.

We now look forward to taking forward the recommendations from the UK delegates and ensure continuity to the warm relations which have been initiated with this visit.

The pace of innovations in farming shows no signs of slowing. The future will be influenced by developments in precision farming. UK-India research partnership on precision agriculture could lead to a significant impact globally.

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About Swati Saxena

Swati is a Senior Science and Innovation Adviser, based in New Delhi. She provides a dedicated support to the UK stakeholders in establishing R&D linkages with India, particularly in research…

Swati is a Senior Science and Innovation Adviser, based in New Delhi. She provides a dedicated support to the UK stakeholders in establishing R&D linkages with India, particularly in research related to food production. She brings strong expertise in agricultural research to the role. Prior to joining the Science and Innovation India team, Swati actively engaged with Indian Government agencies and academics involved in agri-research while working as a regulatory officer for Monsanto, a US-based agricultural multinational firm. She was part of the core group that enabled commercialisation of India’s first genetically modified crop. By building long-term relationships across the government and academics with contacts ranging from the senior policymakers to high calibre scientists with a strong track record in their fields, Swati is well-placed to act as a facilitator to build the technology linkages. Swati has an academic background in genetics.

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