New Delhi, September, 2023: DCM Shriram Foundation, the philanthropic arm of DCM Shriram Ltd, in partnership with The/Nudge Institute, announces 16 semi-finalists of the DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge, incentivising innovations that address India’s agri-water crisis. The grand challenge, in partnership with the O/o the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, was opened for applications in June this year. Selected out of a total of 134 applicants, these 16 organizations will now compete for a total prize purse of INR 2.6 crores, which includes a milestone prize purse of INR 60 lakh for the three finalists who achieve specific targets.
The correlation between many agricultural issues and poor agri-water management is stark. Agriculture consumes 78% of India’s freshwater, with groundwater contributing to 62% of this. With groundwater tables falling at the rate of 2-3 meters a year, India will have only 50% of the water it needs by 2030. The DCM Shriram AgWater Challenge is dedicated to inspiring AgTech and Social Impact Entrepreneurs to develop pioneering solutions tailored specifically for water-intensive crops, such as rice, wheat, sugarcane, and cotton, which are crucial to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers facing escalating water stress and climate-related challenges.
Of the 16 AgWater Tech Innovators, five work in the areas of data-driven and intelligent irrigation systems, and others towards IoT-enabled embedded system hardware, user-friendly Geo-AI platform for farm-specific water management and measured moisture system for efficient water use with a portable moisture probe. Some are using advanced imaging technology for water management, while others are intending to bring forth customized irrigation systems in an affordable and equitable Irrigation-as-a-Service model. All the proposed solutions exhibit a promise to solve water-related issues in the ecosystem and scale small holder farmers’ profit ratios.
Each cohort brings a unique perspective and innovative approach to tackling agricultural water issues. Their contributions are set to reshape the landscape of water utilization in Indian agriculture, driving sustainable and impactful change.
Speaking on the occasion, Aman Pannu, President of DCM Shriram Foundation said, “Addressing the large-scale challenge of water conservation demands a deep comprehension of the complexities within the realm of agriculture. It is truly inspiring to witness the innovative solutions introduced by these visionary individuals and organizations. We hold a strong belief that these dedicated entrepreneurs will not only successfully tackle intricate problems within the water ecosystem but also significantly contribute to improving the livelihoods and profitability of smallholder farmers. In doing so, they will bring us closer to the realization of our shared vision: an empowered agricultural community that thrives while conserving this invaluable resource.”
Kanishka Chatterjee, Director of The/Nudge Prize, stated, “With this cohort and the way the ecosystem of experts have come together, we have realised the power of picking the right problem statements in AgriWater. Strong focus on the most complex issue has galvanised the best brains and organizations in the AgTech ecosystem to take this challenge up for the next 10 months! They’ll have to work hard to prove that their spirit for innovation & scale, can solve for more efficient water utilisation & improved smallholder farmer livelihoods. We at The/Nudge Prize profusely thank all the senior experts, partners, mentors & advisors of the AgWater ecosystem for spending time & effort in being part of the selection panel and are looking forward to working with the top 16 to unlock potential at the bottom of the agricultural pyramid.”
For the next 10 months, each contestant will pilot their project and expand their solution presence across various locations, to create scale, potential and impact.
The selection was spread across 3 stages. In the first stage, the solutions proposed by the applicants were assessed for their relevance towards the problem statement. Out of 134 applicants, 78 made it to the second stage, where several factors were assessed such as product fit, impact on smallholder farmers, technology readiness and scalability. In the third stage, 26 participating organizations faced another round of rigorous assessments on their strategic plan towards water use efficiency for the specified crops and affordability of the solution for the farmers, which helped the panel narrow down the 16 top organisations to form the semi-finalist cohort. The selection panel included 18 members from the leading AgWater ecosystem partners such as MANAGE, RICH, Social Alpha, Indus Water, Daugherty Water Institute – University of Nebraska, Villigro, Acumen, etc, advisors and mentors (sector experts).