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About the Conference

India is the seventh largest country in the world in terms of its geographical with a population of 1.1 billion that is burgeoning at the rate of 1.5% per annum. The country has seen impressive economic growth in recent decades and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The agricultural sector continues to occupy a key position in India’s development planning and economic policies owing to its critical contributions in achieving food and nutrition security, providing livelihood and employment to a significant proportion of the rural population, and reducing poverty. An estimated 70% of India’s 1.1 billion people living in rural areas and approximately 58% of the labor force are engaged in agriculture. Historically, it has been a cornerstone in India’s economic, social and political fabric. However, agriculture’s share of GDP has decreased from 51% in 1947 to about 15.7 % in 2009-10. Agricultural growth has not kept pace with other sectors of the economy and a disproportionate percentage of the rural poor rely on agriculture for their livelihood security.

Agriculture is the basis of human civilization and plays a major role in every economy. The ever growing population and constant demand for food have greatly increased the need for technological improvements and sustainable production in agriculture industry. Demand is rising for agricultural products such as food, feed and fuel. However, agricultural productivity growth rates have been slowing, pressure is increasing on finite natural resources such as land and water, and producers face uncertainty over input costs and the effects of climate change.

The ‘State of Indian Agriculture’ report emphasizes the need to bridge the yield gap in low productivity regions by technology, inputs and other interventions. Raising productivity also assumes significance in view of increasing demand for land for industrialization, urbanization, housing and infrastructure. Sustained investment in agricultural science, technology, and innovation (ST&I) is critical to increasing agricultural productivity, reducing poverty, and fostering economy-wide growth in many developing countries. Evidence from the past five decades demonstrates that well-designed and effectively-implemented ST&I policies can enhance agricultural productivity, contribute to better management of scarce natural resources, and improve livelihoods.

Diverse agriculture is characteristic of India. In order to realize the potential of agriculture innovation in family farming, national priorities of sustainably increasing food production and productivity, and reducing hunger and poverty, require rural knowledge institutions to be stronger and communication processes to be improved. A wide variety of advanced technologies are needed to cope with the economic conditions of farmers and with the requirements of society in industrialized countries. These requirements aim to save precious resources and produce environment friendly and healthy food. As technology is part of farming, engineering must contribute to the development of advanced and efficient agricultural practices.

The thrust areas for the agriculture sector include enhancing public sector investment in research and effective transfer of technology along with institutional reforms in research set up to make it more accountable and geared towards delivery, conservation of land, water and biological resources, development of rain-fed agriculture, development of minor irrigation, timely and adequate availability of inputs, support for marketing infrastructure, increasing flow of credit particularly to the small and marginal farmers.

Notwithstanding the challenges facing India, renewed commitment to agriculture by government indicates improved prospects for agricultural R&D. But this political support must be translated into a set of specific directives by governments, and other stakeholders if the many challenges facing agricultural R&D systems are to be addressed. Among the areas to be addressed are: 1) counteracting decades of underinvestment in agricultural R&D; 2) halting excessive volatility in yearly investment levels; 3) addressing existing and imminent challenges in human resource capacity; and 4) maximizing regional and sub regional co-operation in agricultural R&D.

The changing natural and economic global environment offers the agri-food sector challenges and opportunities. Innovation leading to increased productivity and sustainability will be required to help the sector meet expectations in a context of higher and more variable prices, stronger demand and resource constraints. Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems are diverse and evolving from a linear approach to a more collaborative approach between stakeholders of the Agricultural Knowledge and Information System (AKIS): public and private sector, higher education, research centers, producers, extension services and institutions specialized in technology transfer. In this context, networking is gaining in importance. It is hence that we have conceived the idea of organizing this specialized conference to foster international collaboration and communication cross border and continent to help the agri-food sector meet emerging challenges and size opportunities.

The Conference covers emerging research and new engineering solutions for food production and rural activities, as a means to enhance human well-being and promote social benefits. New concerns include methods of agricultural, livestock and forestry production, and the preservation of natural resources and landscape by applying modern engineering concepts. Healthier production systems need to encompass higher social and economic benefits. 

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