Agrifood life sciences ecosystem

Agrifood life sciences ecosystem

News Analysis   /   Agrifood life sciences ecosystem

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Published on: December 15, 2021

Issue related to Agriculture

Source: The Indian Express


The authors talk about the significance of the Agrifood life sciences ecosystem for Indian agriculture’s future.


Editorial Insights:

  • Over the years, the Indian agriculture ecosystem has been transformed because of the technological impact.
  • Currently, the Agritech investment is at an all-time high in India.
  • However, the current focus of all the Agritech startups is on Agri-tech, e-commerce, rural fintech, etc.
  • Innovations in agrifood life sciences remain deeply neglected by investors & entrepreneurs.
  • The authors believe that the agrifood life sciences is the reverse salient in Indian Agritech & will ultimately hold back the transformation of Indian agriculture & food systems until ts is addressed.


The Components of Agrifood life sciences:

  • Ag-biotechnology includes on-farm inputs for crop and animal agriculture, including genetics, microbiome, breeding, and animal health.
  • Novel farming systems include indoor farms, RAS aquaculture, insect protein, and algae production.
  • Bioenergy and biomaterials include Agri waste processing, biomaterials production, and feedstock technology.
  • Innovative foods refer to various forms of alternative proteins, functional foods, and other novel ingredients.

The Agrifood life sciences ecosystem in India:

While in 2020, globally $6 billion was invested in agrifood life sciences startups, in India the aggregate investment in the ecosystem is just $10 million.

While the US, Israel & China, etc. building unicorn agrifood life sciences startups, India is becoming a global outlet.


Need for robust Agrifood life sciences:

  • In the upcoming years, Indian farmers will bear the full force of climate change, and digital technologies alone are insufficient to ensure a bright future in rural India.
  • Innovations in agrifood life sciences can play a critical role in tackling both reducing India’s GHG emissions and securing a future for India’s farmers.
  • It will also create opportunities to completely reinvent agricultural value chains.
  • India’s bounty of millets and pulses can be transformed into innovative plant-based proteins to meet global demand.
  • Unsustainable animal and aquaculture feed ingredients like fishmeal can be replaced with insect protein, creating a circular economy at scale.
  • Biological substitutes can be developed for traditional chemical fertilizers and pesticides, improving human and planetary health simultaneously.


Challenges/Issues in the Indian Agrifood life sciences ecosystem:

The root cause of the moribund state of India’s agrifood life sciences ecosystem is perplexing

Indian regulatory system:

Many believe India’s de facto ban on new transgenic traits in seeds is a barrier to the development of the ecosystem.

However this can hardly account for the lack of startups in biological crop inputs,

Regulatory challenges cannot account for the lack of vibrancy in India’s agritech life sciences ecosystem



Life science talent in India continues to migrate abroad at the earliest possible opportunity and rarely returns home.

Capital availability & Entrepreneurial activity:

  • The lackluster state of entrepreneurial activity in agrifood life sciences is counterintuitive given how critical innovations in synthetic biology, chemistry, and biotechnology are for the future of Indian agriculture and food systems.
  • Historically ignored deep tech and hardware in favor of lower hanging fruit like e-commerce and fintech. Some of that is just because venture capital flows where it sees the largest and most easily executed opportunities.
  • But part of it might be because most venture capitalists in India come from digital technology backgrounds, as opposed to having been trained in the life sciences. That’s not the case globally

Other structural Issues:

Agrifood life sciences startups still struggle terribly with the lack of wet laboratories and other critical infrastructure for synthetic biology.

Universities and institutes (including CSIR and ICAR) rarely commercialize their intellectual property, oppose exclusive technology licensing on principle, and

They have failed to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship amongst their professors, graduate students, and researchers.



  • A new approach is required to accelerate agrifood life sciences in India.
  • Whether developed by accelerators or research institutes, life sciences research and development infrastructure needs to be made available to entrepreneurs.
  • Life sciences talent in the NRI community should be actively recruited to return to India and build the ecosystem as founders and senior leaders.
  • Venture investors of every stage need to step forward with funding to turn these dreams into our new reality.

Concluding Remarks:

The path ahead for Indian agrifood life sciences will not be easy, it will be an uphill journey for all the ecosystem. However, the future of Indian agriculture and food systems depends on the choices that the stakeholders make today

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