Fifteen years after completing his Marshal Papworth funded MSc in Post-harvest Technologies, Srikanth Rupavatharam, from India, is now leading key digital agriculture research projects at scientific research non-profit organisation, the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India.
Srikanth says: “None of my work would be possible without the support received from the legacy of a farmer from the UK, who provided me with critical funds to fulfil my dream. I am obliged and ever grateful to the Marshal Papworth Fund agricultural development scholarship committee for their generous support of my Master’s study in the UK.” He continues: “I have put the picture taken while receiving the memento of the Marshal Papworth scholarship in my front room as a reminder of faith entrusted in the developing world by a Cambridgeshire farmer, who left such a legacy to inspire me to work for my fellow farmers in India.”
Srikanth’s appointment at ICRISAT allows him to undertake critical research for smallholder farmers in dryland regions of Asia and Africa. Part of this work has seen Srikanth set-up a successful partnership with a German start-up company for the development of an android app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect diseases in plants by analysing damage symptoms on images taken by a smart phone, helping farmers and extension workers increase their productivity and reduce losses by pest, disease and nutrient deficiencies in the crop life cycle. Srikanth is also helping to build the future of AI agricultural projects by mentoring start-up ag-tech companies through ICRISAT.
Following his Masters degree, funded by the East of England Agricultural Society-managed Marshal Papworth Fund, Srikanth returned to India, working with a micro-insurance division taking care of smallholder farmer groups and women self-help groups. After four years, Srikanth secured a PhD in Post-harvest Technologies at Massey University, New Zealand in 2010, following which, he was appointed to ICRISAT.
The Marshal Papworth Fund has now welcomed 215 agricultural development students, working across developing countries to overcome issues including food insecurity, poverty and climate change in a sustainable way. Whilst in the UK, the students attend a number of supplementary visits to farms and other agricultural enterprises, that allow them to see, first-hand, the techniques and management practices UK farmers use to build sustainable and profitable businesses. For both our Masters and 10 week short-course students, these practical learnings enable them to go back to their home countries with both policy design and practical implementation ideas that can benefit the farmers in their own communities, as shown by the work that Srikanth is doing.