Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Oct 07, 2002
Agri-Biz & Commodities
`Technology transfer efforts paying' Dr H.P. Singh, Director, CRIDA
J. Nanda Gopal
HYDERABAD, Oct. 6
THE Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) here has come up with a number of new technologies ready for commercial exploitation and has recently interacted with prominent industry players in agriculture-based products for the transfer and adoption of the technologies. According to Dr H.P. Singh, Director of CRIDA, the collaboration with the industry has been aimed at poverty alleviation and sustainable development.
Dr Singh is visibly happy with the team of scientists he is heading for its dedicated work towards improving the lot of the underprivileged through innovative, cost-effective and site-specific solutions. CRIDA has won the International Association of Web Masters and Designers' Golden Web Award for 2002-2003 for the excellence achieved in web design, content and creativity. At a personal level, Dr Singh has been selected for the prestigious Magnum Foundation Award for lifetime contributions to dryland farming.
In an interview, Dr Singh told Business Line about the outcome of CRIDA's interface with the industry, the areas which have a lot of potential for the promotion of agri-business, the interest and involvement of the industry and the benefits that finally accrue to the community in terms of employment and wealth generation.
On the outcome of interaction with the industry:
In tune with the thinking of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), issues such as transfer of technologies to the industry and possible collaborative efforts between the institute and the industry were discussed threadbare. Biotechnology, agro-forestry, medicinal and aromatic plants, manufacture and use of farm implements, watershed management and integrated pest management were among the subjects that raised a lot of interest.
Seeds, fertilisers, product processing and micro irrigation for horticultural crops were the other areas focussed .
About the major industries that took part in the discussions:
Mekins Agro Products (Pvt) Ltd, Aruna Industries, Paro Engineers and Karshak Industries were among the important industries that came forward to enter into MoUs with CRIDA for the adoption of technologies. CRIDA has top class facilities to analyse pesticides, water and other items and also to offer agriculture-related information through the Geographical Information System (GIS).
On the technologies found commercially viable:
ITC Bhadrachalam Paper Boards, which produces paper pulp from eucalyptus, has come forward to work with CRIDA on developing the same from subabul and silvipasture systems. The micro propagation technology for teak and a medicinal plant, `Stevia' used in the treatment of diabetes (both developed by the institute) have attracted attention. `Stevia' product is 28 times sweeter than sugar and an effective herbal medicine.
Other products identified for commercial use are, sweet pellets from sunflower head that can be used as animal feed, natural colour and a herbal tea called `Safotea'. An alcohol extraction plant from sorghum is another possibility. Seagram Distilleries in Pune has been operating one such plant there.
A sprayer for mango crop has been developed by CRIDA. It can cover 20 hectares a day and saves 50 per cent of insecticides which would otherwise go waste. It is priced at Rs 47,000.
About the financial terms to transfer technologies:
There are no rigid rules on this and can be negotiated. There is a royalty component which is a modest one per cent. The objective is to ensure that the benefits of scientific efforts reach the people on a wider scale.
What does CRIDA do with the money it earns?
It is ploughed back into R & D.
Whether CRIDA's efforts so far have been rewarded?
Yes, in the sense that in the areas it has covered, farmers have started following the scientists' advice and reaping benefits. The techniques have also spread to other areas where farmers have recognised their importance.
The key to future food security lies in biotechnology and that of wealth generation in marketing products. Can these concepts really help the majority of small farmers? In other words, can they have a participatory role in it?
Why not? The problem is one of community mobilisation and creating rural infrastructure for marketing the products. It can be successfully tackled if the right forces are marshalled for the purpose.
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