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Every year on 16th October, World Food Day is celebrated to commemorate the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in 1945. India, known for its culinary diversity, celebrates this day by savouring a unique platter from each state with a wide array of flavours, ingredients, and cooking techniques. India’s culinary richness is evident in delectable street food, regular home-cooked meals, and fine dining establishments across the country. While the more famous cuisine delights like Butter Chicken, Chhole Bhature and Dosa have received international acclaim, some must-try regional dishes from across the country include the Kashmiri Rogan Josh, Maharashtrian Misal Pav, Goan Fish Curry, Hyderabadi Haleem, Bengali Panta Bhaat and much more. Several factors can be attributed to the richness and diversity of Indian cuisine.

Historical influences have left a lasting mark on the ingredients used and cooking techniques developed over the years. India's vast and varied landscape contributes to various climates, soils, and topographies, leading to diverse agricultural produce and ingredients across regions. Family traditions, street food culture, and adaptability add layers to this dynamic cuisine, making it a flavourful amalgamation of history, culture, and regional uniqueness. 

Many traditional Indian ingredients are associated with health benefits. For instance, turmeric, ginger, and garlic are generally known to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. Several food entrepreneurs who have gained popularity in India have successfully garnered diners' interests by blending traditional and modern cooking techniques to innovate the food industry. India has also significantly contributed to global cuisine through its extensive agricultural exports. Exports of spices increased by 18.2%, while exports of fruits and vegetables by 14.1% in April-June 2023 over April-June 2022. India is also the world’s largest producer of milk, cashew nuts, coconuts, tea, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and coffee. The Economic Survey 2022-23 notes that 47% of the Indian population depends on agriculture for livelihood. Given the importance of the food and agriculture sector in the country, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has undertaken several initiatives and programs to ensure access to quality food for all while contributing to sustainable food practices and the financial well-being of farmers. 

A major initiative to achieve these goals is e-NAM, the National Agriculture Market, an online platform that integrates agricultural markets across the country, facilitating transparent price discovery and enabling farmers to sell their produce directly to buyers. This platform ensures farmers get better crop prices and eliminates many intermediaries, promoting a localised and transparent food supply chain. This platform aligns with the Farm-to-Table movement, which minimises environmental effects by putting consumers in direct contact with nearby producers and lowering the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation. Additionally, the Farm-to-Table philosophy supports ecologically sound farming techniques, including organic and agroecological farming, which help soil health and biodiversity. 

Other programmes like the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) aim to promote sustainable agriculture practices, and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) strive to achieve a 4% annual growth in the agriculture sector by strengthening infrastructure, promoting value addition, and adopting innovative agricultural practices. The Eat Right Initiative, launched by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is a comprehensive public health campaign aimed at promoting healthy and safe eating habits among the Indian populace by addressing various aspects of food, including nutrition, hygiene, and food safety. 

In a bid to further revolutionise the agriculture sector, the Government of India has heavily backed food-tech companies and agri-entrepreneurs for a holistic approach to sustainable development. Perishable food often poses several challenges which require unique solutions to maintain the quality and safety of products throughout the supply chain. The Digital Agriculture Mission (DAM) initiative was launched in September 2021 to help agri-tech startups by leveraging emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, cloud computing, earth observation and remote sensing. As of May 2023, 4,979 recognised food and agri-tech startups are making an impact in 523 districts across India.  

Some of the startups with innovative solutions are: 

1. CropIn Technology Solutions, which employs Big Data Analytics, AI, ML, and Remote Sensing, and gathers information from weather and satellites to offer customised solutions to agribusinesses. 

2. Ninjacart, India's largest agri-marketing platform, uses technology to solve complex supply chain issues by connecting farmers directly with businesses for vegetables and fruits. 

3. FlyBird Farm Innovations uses innovations and technology like Micro-irrigation Systems, Web/Mobile App Controllers, IoT, and Timer-Based Machines to enhance farmers' livelihoods, increase crop yield, conserve water and electricity, and make affordable technology accessible to farmers. 

Moreover, the adoption of drone technology in agriculture has significantly contributed to precise data collection, efficient resource utilisation, livestock monitoring, disaster assessment, and market intelligence for farmers. This technological integration not only enhances productivity and sustainability but also aligns with the increased awareness of healthy eating, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic spurred a wave of successful entrepreneurs in India focusing on organic and locally sourced foods. 

To meet this demand, India boasts the highest number of organic farmers in the world at 44.3 lakhs, and 59.1 lakh hectare area has been brought under organic farming by 2021-22, notes the Economic Survey. Through Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCDNER), under the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), farmers receive financial aid of INR 10,000 per hectare for three years, covering training, handholding, and ICS documentation. Additionally, farmers are offered the assistance of INR 32,500 per hectare over three years for both off-farm and on-farm organic inputs, thereby incentivising organic farming. 

India is also leading in promoting millets through the International Year of Millets initiative, which “have higher nutrient content compared to major cereal crops and ensure food and nutrition security. Further, millets are tolerant to drought and other extreme weather conditions.” Supporting sustainable eating habits while enjoying traditional Indian cuisine involves making mindful choices that consider both environmental impact and personal health. By eating local and seasonal foods, avoiding wastage, supporting local markets, and exploring traditional preservation techniques like fermenting, pickling, and drying to extend the lifecycle of ingredients, one can make a substantial contribution to a healthy lifestyle and promote sustainability on a broader scale. 

On this World Food Day, India's strides towards sustainable and healthy eating habits are evident. The farm-to-table movement is gaining momentum, linking consumers with fresh, locally sourced produce. The success stories of food entrepreneurs showcase resilience and innovation, contributing to a vibrant food landscape. With cutting-edge food tech innovations, the Indian food industry is evolving, ensuring efficiency and reduced waste. 

India’s agrarian society continues to bloom and flourish! 

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