Animal husbandry and dairying activities, along with agriculture, have been vital to human existence since the dawn of civilization. These operations have aided not only the food basket and draught animal power but also the preservation of the ecological equilibrium. They play a significant role in generating gainful employment in the rural sector, particularly among the landless, small, and marginal farmers and women, besides providing cheap and nutritious food to millions of people.

Technology has impacted each dimension of human life. In this era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it has become imperative for stakeholders to meaningfully engage with innovators to avoid being disrupted by faster, more agile, and responsive competitors. For State functions and public services, the risk of being outcompeted in the market is not as stark as in the private sector due to natural monopolies. However, agriculture and related sectors must embrace a digital, connectivity-fuelled transformation to overcome increasing demand and several disruptive forces.

Today's agriculture routinely uses sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology.

It is critical for government stakeholders to scout for innovative solutions and harness the potential of new technologies. With this agenda in mind, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) and Startup India partnered on two Grand Challenges aimed at supporting lucrative innovations in the Animal Husbandry and Dairying sectors across India. The impact created across the two programs has been multifold. 

The first Grand Challenge was launched by Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, on 11th September 2019 at a national animal disease control program in Mathura. 157 applications were received in total for the six problem statements that were identified below: 

  1. Value-added products: introduce value-added dairy products viz. cheese, smoothies, flavoured milk, custard, yogurt, and other ethnic Indian products using innovative techniques for smaller domestic as well as export markets 
  2. Single-use plastic alternatives: using environment-friendly alternatives to replace single-use polythene in the dairy sector 
  3. Eliminate milk adulteration: tackling milk adulteration in the dairy sector 
  4. E-commerce solutions: encouraging innovations to provide modern digital infrastructure and advisory services across the country 
  5. Product traceability: using technologies to track the journey of dairy products from farm to fork
  6. Breed improvement and animal nutrition: use of innovative technologies for quick genetic gain among Indian breeds of cattle and buffalos, and new varieties of green fodder and enriched animal feed.

With the success of the first edition, the second edition of the ‘Animal Husbandry Startup Grand Challenge’ was carried out on 26th November 2021. The challenge focused on six problem statements, including: 

  • Cost-effective, long-term, and user-friendly alternatives for the storage and supply of semen doses 
  • Development of cost-effective animal identification (RFID) and traceability technology 
  • Development of heat detection kits 
  • Development of pregnancy diagnosis kits for dairy animals 
  • Improvement of the existing milk supply chain from the village collection center to the dairy plant 
  • Development of low-cost cooling and milk preservation system and a data logger 

Across the two editions, 24 startups have been recognized by the government, and provided with INR 2Cr+ worth of cash prizes, mentorship from industry experts, and incubation support from the leading incubators of the country.

Startups in this sector are ever evolving. One of the many startups focuses on a unique data collection framework for bovine biometric identification that allows continuous reliable flow of clean biometric data using a simple smartphone application for Indian smallholder dairy farms. Another is a Rapid Test for the detection of pregnancy in whole blood (EDTA), plasma (EDTA) or serum of cows/bovine. Our entrepreneurs have developed a Cryo-cool box, which is a portable device that can maintain suitable temperatures needed to transport biologics for Artificial Insemination and milk supply chain etc.

There are approximately 300 animal husbandry and dairying startups in the nation, and the number is growing year after year. Each firm has a unique approach to assisting farmers in increasing their productivity and profitability; some focus on supply chain process optimization, some on online market trading, and many on precision farming. The need of the hour is to discover technologies that can be scaled up to meet the rising population's needs. This can be made feasible only with the help of ecosystem enablers and the Government.

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