Press Release

Commemorating Partnerships in Agriculture Innovation at AAU
Jorhat, Assam | October 8, 2013

New Solutions for New Needs: Learning Goes Digital at AAU
The Agricultural Innovation Partnership, a unique consortium of Indian agricultural universities and institutes, US Land-grant universities and various private sector enterprises, has helped one of its partner universities, Assam Agricultural University, to customize and implement an e-learning platform called Online Learning and Training (OLAT), an open source learning management system (LMS) developed by the University of Zurich in Switzerland. OLAT delivers learning services for large academic institutions to help its members accomplish a meaningful teaching and learning experience.

Dr. Stefan Einarson, Director, Information Technology, International Programs, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, and his staff conducted training programs in e-learning and media production methodologies for a select group of staff, faculty and students from Assam Agricultural University. The objective of these training programs was two-fold: to provide faculty and staff at the university with the skills to develop content for syllabi and guide them in digitizing and archiving course material so that they can be accessed quickly and conveniently. Apart from providing training, AIP also supported the acquisition of the necessary equipment, software and hardware required to run the program in the classrooms. Classroom lectures can now be captured using OLAT’s revolutionary lecture capture technology that students can conveniently access when required.

Some of the benefits of implementing OLAT on campus are–quick and convenient accessibility of course material for students; an interactive learning environment not confined to a physical space; eliminates the constraint of the faculty being physically present so that the university can tap into expertise of faculty and experts from other partnering universities and organizations in India or even abroad; and most importantly, students have the ability to revisit the classroom lectures.

Dr. Jyoti Gogoi, Professor-In-Charge, ARIS Cell, Assam Agricultural University said, “Technology will completely transform education in the next few decades. To keep pace with the world, AAU has joined hands with the Agricultural Innovation Partnership to transform the way we taught earlier. We have adopted the lecture capture technology in many of our classrooms to digitize and archive the lectures to enable present and future generation of students readily access the resources anytime, anywhere. Digitization will not only ensure better, more informative and effective lectures by the faculty members, it will help us preserve our training sessions forever, share with the world and avoid duplication of efforts.”

New Curriculum at AAU
Under the aegis of the Agricultural Innovation Partnership (AIP), the faculty of Assam Agricultural University (AAU) also developed four vocational/certificate courses in the field of Aquaculture, Poultry, Floriculture and Goat Breeding and Rearing. The content of these courses followed the outlines of newly developed and revamped programs at other AIP partner universities in India like the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology (SVPUAT), Meerut developed with expertise from US Land Grant Universities like Cornell University, University of Illinois and Tuskegee University. The courses were specifically developed after extensive consultations with industry heads and adhere to the AIP mandate of tuning curricula in the partnering universities to make them more relevant to both private and public sector needs in the field of agriculture.

The certificate program in aquaculture production and management has already commenced, while the three other courses in Poultry, Floriculture and Goat Breeding and Rearing will be launched by the end of this quarter.

Dr. Suresh Damodaran, Coordinator of the AIP program said, “AIP has designed certificate and diploma programs keeping the aquaculture industry’s immense requirement for skilled manpower in mind and AAU has taken the lead to implement these courses on priority to benefit the rural aquaculture farmers of Assam. AIP partners have also collaborated on developing curricula in food science, animal science, and agriculture and have remodeled undergraduate and post graduate degrees to expose students to agri-enterprise creation and management. Such multidisciplinary exposure to students will help them prepare to meet the needs of the farmers, and it will trigger agri-preneurship among students to create small rural enterprises.”

Staying Connected: AAU deploys ICT Solutions for Effective Extension
Agricultural extension is the application of scientific research and new knowledge that have been developed in agricultural universities and institutes through farmer education. However, in the modern context, ‘extension’ encompasses a wider range of communication and learning activities organized for rural people by educators from different disciplines, including agriculture, agricultural marketing, health, and business studies. Agricultural extension is a significant component of the triple mandate, apart from education and research, which governs agricultural universities and institutions in India.

As a private sector partner in the AIP consortium, the Hyderabad-based Sathguru Management Consultants, has developed a mobile Tablet based solution for the rapid delivery of relevant information to the staff of the University Extension department working in the field. The hand-held solution will enable the extension workers to access information on various farmer intervention aspects like accessing complete agronomic information on farmers in the database; remote crop management (RCM) for timely technical assistance; good agricultural practices (GAP) demonstration through embedded videos in the field without the need for internet connectivity; and real-time field survey through the hand-held device.

Using the highly scalable solution with convenient offline capabilities, field level university extension staff can now conveniently access general information on the farmers in their target region; details of their land holding including field shape and size; micro-credit/insurance interventions; soil fertility information; crop Information including sowing, harvesting and inter-cropping; adoption and impact of crop varieties/hybrids developed by the universities; current agronomic practices; pest/disease information; training, demonstration and intervention history and much more.

The field survey application is one of the most convenient tools that will enable the extension executive to follow the field boundaries to automatically capture the size, shape and geo-coordinates of the plot for direct upload to a central database when wireless connectivity is available or it can be saved and uploaded from the extension office later.

The training module will facilitate on field demonstration of best practice video as a continuous education tool to farmers. The extension specialist will be able to use the hand held tablet to demonstrate videos on best practice that are stored on the tablet.

Quite often, the extension specialist has to deal with technical questions from the farmer, which may require more elaborate analysis to understand the cause and provide the correct solutions. The current model of support to farmers is better facilitated through expert advice provided from a central location, so that multiple issues are analyzed at a single point. This can also facilitate the creation of a database of the problems that are normally faced by farmers in a structured manner. The Remote Crop Solution bridges the gap between the farmer and the scientific adviser as a two-way connect to receive the problem and deliver the solution using the hand held tablet devices.

“A key feature of the mobile solution is that while it deploys cutting-edge ICT, it has also been dovetailed to work in a rural milieu and designed to function effectively under low bandwidth and low-connectivity or even no-connectivity environments,” said Mr. Anantha Murthy, Information Specialist at Sathguru Management Consultants.

Recipes for Success: AAU Boosts Local Industry
Translating research done in universities into products and services takes considerable and sustained effort. It requires several specialized resources such as technology transfer offices, support systems, qualified people, flexible models for business partners, etc. Though a complicated exercise, the benefits of successful commercialization of the products of research and development at universities are many. The successful commercialization of a product can generate much needed premium to support further research and become self-sustainable, and provide local entrepreneurs with the fruits of university- based research, which can also boost the local economy through the introduction of innovative new products. The universities thus shift from being disengaged ivory towers involved in purely academic pursuits to becoming more relevant to the local community as mandated by the acts under which they were originally established.

The Agricultural Innovation Partnership collaborated with Assam Agricultural University (AAU) to commercialize a vastly popular product, with great demand but limited commercial availability—pickles made from chicken and fish. Dr. K. M. Bujarbaruah, will be flagging off the commercial release of the product in a special ceremony at the Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat on 8 October, 2013.

The unique recipes have been developed by Prof. Mineswar Hazarika, Prof Pranjyoti Sharma and a team of faculty at AAU. One of the products employs natural bamboo shoot extracts as a safe organic preservative.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof Hazarika said, “The success of a product doesn’t just lie in its production, but how it engages into people’s lives. AIP has helped us connect innovation with entrepreneurship and provide consumers with access to new products and greater convenience. The commercialization of chicken and fish pickle through Maghalee Food Products will enrich the variety and palatability of the Assamese cuisine. The process of commercialization has helped us touch several lives around us.”

These pickles have a longer shelf life than similar products available in the market and have better nutritional value. Jorhat-based small entrepreneur, Meghalee Food Products, a self-help group, will be commercially producing and marketing these pickles. Meghalee Food Products is owned and run by Mrs Meghalee Bora, a woman entrepreneur.

“Introducing innovative products in the market is the key to ensure our position as a market leader. Initial survey conducted for chicken and fish pickle developed by Assam Agricultural University and transferred to us through AIP indicated good market potential of these products. We will use our reach to popularize these in the entire northeastern region for a positive economic and societal impact. Many of the consumers who have been with us during the development phase are looking forward to the product,” said Mrs Bora.

Partnerships in Agricultural Innovation: Book Release at AAU
To commemorate the significant engagements by the Agricultural Innovation Partnership (AIP), Dr. K. M. Bujarbaruah, Vice-Chancellor of Assam Agricultural University released two books published under the aegis of the AIP consortium on 8 October 2013 during a special ceremony at the Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat.

Mapping the Road to an Innovative Agriculture Education System compiles and analyses a baseline survey conducted at Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat; Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi and the Sardar Vallabhbhai University of Agriculture and Technology, Meerut. The survey was conducted to assess the current status of agricultural education and covered the various aspects of course content, education delivery and extension in the three universities. Primary data was collected not merely through scientifically designed surveys in the partnering universities, but also took into account the views of employers who hired graduates from these agricultural universities. The report highlights the strengths and weaknesses in agricultural education and is expected to be useful for academic managers and educational policy planners as they design future engagements to improve the Indian agricultural education system.

Also released was an attractively designed commemorative coffee table book titled The Innovation Impact. The book highlights the engagements by the AIP at its partner universities in India and celebrates its achievements.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof Bujarbaruah said, “The Innovation Impact reflects AIP’s accomplishments since its inception. An interesting and engaging read, it offers useful snapshots of the entire program and an overview of its interventions and engagements across the world. AAU has been a proud partner of AIP and has benefited from the engagements.”

This unique exercise has set the stage for many more such university industry partnerships in future and has motivated many researchers to develop high potential products and inspired small scale entrepreneurs to come forward and commercialize these products to improve income and profitability.

About AIP
The Agricultural Innovation Partnership (AIP) seeks to modernize agricultural curriculum and extension services in select agricultural universities in India in order to increase agricultural productivity and strengthen food security in India and across the world. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the five-year project comprises a consortium of Indian and U.S. land-grant universities (Cornell, Illinois, Georgia, The Ohio State, Tuskegee, and UC-Davis) and private sector partners that include Tata Chemicals Ltd and Sathguru Management Consultants Pvt. Ltd.

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