Ensuring Food Security and Better Life of Farming Community through High Quality Seeds
This is the story of an innovator who took 25 years to turn his mission into reality. Sheer grit, determination and relentless drive sums up this piece. Dr. L.K. Pandey narrates how he is ensuring food security and better life of farming community through high quality seeds for one of the largest farming population of the world.
How did the idea of starting Ananya Seeds some to you? What inspired you to start this?
My story of innovation started later than I would have liked but from where I stand today, I am very happy it took its own course. As they say, good things take time. It took me 25 years to realise what I really wanted to do. This field is challenged by continuously rising global population, decreasing cultivable land, and increasingly erratic weather conditions. The role of farming has become more important than ever. It’s a race against time to unlock secrets of plant life that could unfold higher yield potential with better nutrition value traits. I joined hands with like-minded technocrats to start Ananya Seeds Pvt. Ltd. I have always felt the pain of farmers who do not get good quality seeds instead of high prices. The seed industry in those days were in hands of few business houses, aloof from farmers pain points.
I saw the seed industry from very close quarters and after having played various key roles in this area for 25 years, I decided to pursue my life time ambition to launch a Seed Company and create an unique brand which farmers can feel closer to their heart.
No innovation is without its set of challenges. Tell us yours
Absolutely! And when you work on grassroots innovation, it can teach you much. To be honest, you probably need to re-consider your work if there is no challenge. We started with a focus on few crops and slowly started building up a strong portfolio. We established our own processing and packing plant at Ambala, a highly suitable area for seed research and multiplication. Eventually, our in-house R&D was given due recognition by DSIR, Govt. of India. Every year, we expand our reach to farmers across the country. We take pride in our ability to deliver highly competitive products at affordable prices.
It wasn’t an easy feat. We had to fight our own battles and cut the path for our journey. Finding the right people, nurturing an environment that was very congenial to attract and retain best talents of seed industry, access to the best technology used in seed industry and of course, that classic, inevitable hurdle of funds, we’ve been through it all. But as they say, where there is a will, there is a way and we found ours, time and again. We got incubation facility at ZTM-BPD Unit of Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, access to technical guidance, new research, new seeds, lab facility, mentoring and coaching. With this support, we were able to deliver world class seeds at par with frontline companies. Being located in Pusa campus we got access to a great network of seed industry. The company was selected as technology partner of NRDC, New Delhi in a Tomato production project in Ghana (West Africa). We got due support from MoMSME, NRDC, Banking system and also used our own savings and sources to meet the fund requirement.
Today, our production team is one of the best in Asia and has experience, wisdom and skills to undertake seed production task with assured quality norms. From where I see it, it’s been like reading a piece of fiction.
When did Ananya Seeds become successful?
I remember that year clearly. It was 2014-15 when we became a high quality seed delivering company. That was the year we proved that we are serious about our mission to ensure food security and better life of farming community through high quality seeds.
It also started exports and corporate supplies which proved it as a seed company with global standards and competitiveness. The company got several best company awards, best manufacturing start up and most promising start up ( CII AWARDS). We hope to take this company for IPO for larger expansion plan. I am determined to make ‘Ananya Seeds’ a global brand in its outlook, products and services.
What problems does your innovation solve and how?
This is my favourite question! By developing high yielding seeds, Anaya Seeds increases income and purchasing power of seed growers. This will boost their related economic activities. Imagine what this means when you picture a farmer.
Farmers are gradually shifting from low value crops to high value crops. We all know that farmers are desperate to increase the farm productivity through the best agri-inputs agronomical practices. In this pursuit, seeds play key role in increasing production. That is the problem we solved. We are deploying new strategies to incorporate various changes to adjust to consumer behaviour trends in order to remain competitive. In this sense, we have taken a leading role in the segmentation process of the main vegetable crops and are continuously launching conventional as well as unconventional products with higher yield and desirable features. Thousands of germplasm of different varieties of crops Diversified product portfolio with wide range of products- 30 field and vegetable crops with 120 varieties/Hybrids which are adaptable to different agro-climatic conditions across the country. This can be used in similar climatic conditions anywhere in the world.
What is the greatest threat to innovation in the world today?
The world is changing at the speed of sound. This makes the life span of any innovation very short. If we are responding to the needs of customers, it would change by the time we deliver a product or service. Our approach in innovation needs to be highly proactive with great agility. Innovation needs to be transformed into products to avoid becoming obsolete. Another issue is Intellectual Property Rights of innovation and its implementation. Even inventors are not sure how long the technology is going to last. Unfortunately, high precision innovation is limited to few hands only. Some innovations are falling in category of Frugal Tech based on low end technologies. Several claimed innovations are not really innovations but extension or improvement of earlier discoveries or existing technologies. Therefore, unless innovation is disruptive in nature, they will not have a long life cycle and could even risk death at birth.
What are your plans for the future?
We intend to bring high yielding crops with resistance to prevalent diseases of vegetables. Beside this, we are developing climate resilient hybrids and varieties to perform in uncertain climatic conditions. There is a humungous opportunity for exporting seeds produced in India like corn, paddy, sunflower, millets, cabbage, onion, carrot, beans, cauliflower, radish, peas etc. There is also immense scope for custom seed. This way we can enable extra benefits that will reach farmers. We also aim to transform lives of farmers with small training and development to make them highly skilled for seed production activity. We are also planning to impart training to government departments and private sector personnel about the recent advancements in precision agricultural technologies.
What about Disruption in innovation?
Innovation should come from out-of-the-box thinking and completely disrupt. There is no place of incremental approach in innovation which is otherwise just modification or improvement in existing products. In India, frugal innovation is the way of life and suitably part of daily lives. However, a systematic, thought provoking and challenging attitude to the status quo is required when we want to compete globally. Complacency will have to be removed from science and innovation otherwise we will fail. Our innovations should make a difference in the lives of people and must resolve certain pain points. If we are able to make life more comfortable and equitable then certainly our innovations are disruptive and bring a paradigm shift.
How would you describe an ideal environment for innovation?
The ideal environment can be defined by presence of less government regulations and more self-governance. This will encourage innovators to recover the investment. Innovators should be provided all the support to protect their IPR. For a certain period, financial support is needed by innovators for commercialization and scaling up the production.