Soil Technology News

Low-cost digital soil-testing technology developed by IARI

A low-cost digital soil-testing technology developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), has been tweaked by a sister ICAR institute and the licence for its manufacture and sale given to a sole private company.

Since December last year, the private company, Hyderabad-based Nagarjuna Agro Chemicals Private Limited (NACPL), has sold over 5,000 kits and refills worth Rs 83 crore through NAFED alone, without any tender.

Delhi-based IARI invented the “Digital Soil Test Fertiliser Recommendation (STFR)” technology — under which a farmer could, using an electronic device, test seven soil parameters and obtain specific fertiliser recommendations. This opened up the possibilities of taking soil-testing facilities, traditionally limited to a handful of institutional laboratories, to the grassroots.

The IARI filed a patent application for STFR in 2011 and started issuing licences for its commercialisation in 2012. In July 2014, NACPL was among several companies that obtained a licence from IARI for commercialising this STFR technology. The next month, the company tied up with another ICAR lab, the Indian Institute of Soil Science (IISS) in Bhopal, to ostensibly improve on the STFR technology.

A day before the Prime Minister launched the nationwide Soil Health Card scheme on February 19, 2015, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh unveiled Mridaparikshak/mini lab developed by IISS in collaboration with NACPL. Despite IARI’s protestations — “a case of copying of Pusa STFR patented technology with a few more elements and parameters added” — the company secured exclusive rights for commercialising the “proprietary item”.

As both IARI and IISS continued refining their respective products, procurement under the soil health card scheme gathered steam when the government sanctioned setting up over 6,000 mini labs in 2016-2017.

the IARI offered an improved STFR technology to its licencees which could analyse 10 of 12 parameters required for the government’s soil health card, and set a December 2016 deadline for adding the two missing parameters which were already available in Mridaparikshak/mini lab of IISS.

IARI Joint Director (Research) K V Prabhu said he was hopeful that the “validation process will be completed soon and commercialisation of all parameters of STFR will be made possible”.

IISS director A K Patra declined comment on the charge of modifying the STFR technology into a proprietary item. “Mridaparikshak technology has been applied for IP protection. mini lab has been commercialised as per ICAR guidelines,” he said.

Source : http://indianexpress.co

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