DCM Shriram Foundation and The/Nudge Institute unveil INR 2.6 Crore Prize Challenge to Solve Agri-Water Related Issues

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The/Nudge Institute and DCM Shriram Foundation
The/Nudge Institute and DCM Shriram Foundation

The ‘DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge invites leading AgTech entrepreneurs to solve for water security and prosperity of ~1 million smallholder farmers. The Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor, Govt. of India, is a partner.

HYDERABAD: DCM Shriram Foundation and The/Nudge Institute’s Centre for Social Innovation, with the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor (GoI), have launched an INR 2.6 crore prize challenge, aimed at fostering innovation at the intersection of agriculture and efficient use of water. The challenge seeks to encourage leading AgTech & Social Impact Entrepreneurs to develop population-scale solutions & innovations within India’s agri-water ecosystem, with a massive impact on stagnant livelihood opportunities, especially for smallholder farmers.

80% of India’s groundwater is used for agriculture, but 60% of this is inefficient utilization. Misaligned practices on the application of nutrients and fertilizers have led to imbalance and soil degradation resulting in inefficiency in water utilization, declining groundwater, and affecting crop yields. Hence, water scarcity, non-judicious use of freshwater resources, unsustainable agricultural practices, overdependence on erratic rainfall, and climate change threaten the state of the agriculture sector in India, home to over 600 million farmers.

For the upcoming DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge, The/Nudge Prize encompasses a substantial prize purse of INR 2.6 Crore. This includes a grand prize of INR 2 Crore for the winner, representing one of the most generous grant prizes for sustainable agricultural interventions. Additionally, a total of 60 Lakh rupees will be distributed among three other finalists who successfully cross the milestone thresholds (INR 30/20/10 Lakh respectively).

To create unprecedented urgency & impact on this topic – The challenge is also enabling an AgWater and SHF expert ecosystem, consisting of leading market players, government departments, research Institutions & senior mentors/visionaries across India & beyond. This ecosystem will be essential to promote high-potential innovators and accelerate the adoption of their solutions, along with the leadership of the PSA, tasked with providing pragmatic and objective advice to the Prime Minister and the cabinet in matters of Science and Technology.

While announcing the launch, Aman Pannu, President, of DCM Shriram Foundation said, “Any effort aimed at conserving water on a large scale must closely align with the needs of agriculture. Such a program would have to navigate through a complex web of factors, including weather conditions, selection of crops and varieties, yield potential, water requirements of crops, available irrigation resources, water-saving technologies, agronomic practices, agricultural extension services, accessibility of agricultural inputs, electricity availability, and numerous other variables. Additionally, policy changes that affect input pricing and agricultural produce must also be considered. Undoubtedly, creating a conducive environment for water conservation and improving water-use efficiency in agriculture is an exceedingly challenging task. In view of the same, the DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge has been launched in collaboration with The/Nudge Institute with significant emphasis on addressing the water-related challenges in agriculture. The challenge invites disruptive technology-driven agricultural startups and social entrepreneurs to innovate and provide tangible solutions to this intricate problem specifically focused on scalability for smallholder farmers.”

Kanishka Chatterjee, Director, The/Nudge Prize added, “While lucrative solutions addressing agri-water problems have gained momentum in recent years, there has been far less vitality in affordable and accessible models for the small and marginal farmers. Their high dependence on groundwater and increased vulnerability to water stress/climatic changes, land productivity, price, and market risks call for audacious problem-solving. An inducement challenge like the DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge pushes AgTech to develop, demonstrate & deploy rapid innovation for this critical problem. Innovating for efficient water utilization in agriculture holds the potential to improve economic outcomes for over 600 million smallholder farmers across the country.”

This highly anticipated challenge will meticulously identify a cohort of 15-20 exceptional solutions from a vast pool of applicants, who are working on improving the agricultural water utilization of smallholder farmers through technological interventions – specifically for water-intensive crops like rice, wheat, sugarcane & cotton, for the first time. The selected cohort will be chosen and supported for 12 months by a distinguished group of advisors comprising prominent Agri Investors, Policymakers, Academia, Thought Leaders from DCM Shriram, RICH Telangana, MANAGE, SocialAlpha, TISS, Acumen, ThinkAg, Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, etc., among others. Throughout the challenge, the selected cohort will engage in immersions, mentorship sessions, interventions, and pilots facilitated by an evolved and high-performing ecosystem that shares the common objective of addressing AgWater issues for smallholder farmers. 

DCM Shriram Foundation is dedicated to disrupting the status quo of inefficient water usage in agriculture, by promoting practices, innovations, and optimization for large-scale water conservation. The/Nudge Prize focuses on population-scale solutions for livelihood challenges faced by the bottom 30% of India’s population, especially small and marginal farmers. The DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge is the third Prize Challenge by The/Nudge Institute (Cisco Agri Challenge and Ashirvad Water Challenge were the previous two). United in purpose, DCM Shriram Foundation, and The/Nudge Prize are launching this challenge with a view towards unlocking prosperity and water security for 1 million Indian farmers.

DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge invites leading AgTech innovators & Agri Social Entrepreneurs in crop productivity, irrigation tech & water utilization efficiency from across the nation to develop & scale demonstrable smallholder farmer (SHF) specific solutions for India, that solve the following:

  • improve cropping water efficiencies or reduce water consumption for fine cereals (rice and wheat etc) or cash crops ( sugarcane and cotton etc) as per targets below
  • improve farmer profitability by at least 40-50%, while implementing their solutions
  • offer affordable water-efficient technology at costs not more than 20% of the cost of crop cultivation to smallholder farmers, (or offer flexible financing options)
  Crop-wise targets* for the DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge
 RiceWheatSugarcaneCotton
Cost of tech as % of the cost of cultivation>60%>40%>20%>50%
*Targets are based on respective crop-wise benchmarks and then moderated basis multi-locational, multi-varietal consultancies and research. Solutions shall have a year to innovate, scale and move beyond their existing benchmarks/crops & achieve the aforementioned targets verifiably (within India & for smallholder farmers)<20%<15%<15%<10%
*Targets are based on respective crop-wise benchmarks and then moderated basis multi-locational, multi-varietal consultancies and research. Solutions shall have an year to innovate, scale and move beyond their existing benchmarks/crops & achieve the aforementioned targets verifiably (within India & for smallholder farmers)

Over the past three years, The/Nudge Prize has successfully launched and executed two challenges– Cisco Agri Challenge (CAC) and Ashirvad Water Challenge. They collaborated with over 50 innovators, handpicked from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants.

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