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The Agricultural and Food Engineering Department was established in 1952, as the Agricultural Engineering Department on the recommendation of the Dhar Committee appointed by the Board of Governors, IIT Kharagpur in 1950. Subsequently on the upgradation of its academic programme, the department was renamed as the Agricultural and Food Engineering Department in 1994.

Among the sixteen IITs, IIT Kharagpur has the sole distinction of having an Agricultural and Food Engineering Department. Ever since its establishment, the department has pioneered Agricultural Engineering education and research in the country. Keeping pace with the technological and agricultural developments, the department has continuously upgraded its academic programs. Today it offers a 4-year B.Tech. (Hons) course in Agricultural and Food Engineering, 2-year M.Tech program, six year joint M.Tech-Ph.D programmes in different specializations of agricultural engineering and sciences, and 5-year integrated M.Tech. programmes in all four engineering specializations. In addition, the department offers M.S. (by research) and Ph.D. programmes in all areas of specialization.

In order to sustain high levels of research and teaching, the department has modernized its laboratories, computational and field test facilities, which support frontline research in the areas of farm machinery and power, land and water resources engineering, food process engineering, aquacultural engineering, agronomy, soil science and agricultural biotechnology. The research facilities for food process engineering were strengthened through the support of the ministry of food processing industries. As a matter of fact, post harvest engineering laboratories were earlier a part of the Post Harvest Technology Centre, which was originally named as Rice Process Engineering Centre, was established at this Institute in 1970 by the Government of India, Ministry of Food and Civil supplies, with partial financial assistance from the Ford Foundation and technical collaboration from the Louisiana State University, USA. In 1993, this centre was merged with Agricultural Engineering Department, and subsequently, the name of the department has been changed to Agricultural and Food Engineering to broaden its scope and activities. In 2007, the activity of this centre was completely integrated with this department.

Aiming in establishing a linkage with academia, agricultural industries and its own alumni, the department is organising annual event, Prakriti. Agricultural Engineering Society (AES) of this department looks after the social and extra-curricular activities of its students.

The department continues to attract a large number of sponsored and consultancy projects from a number of government agencies, international foundations and industries. International research collaborations have been established with UC Davis, Texas A & M University, Potsdam University, Leibniz University, TU Dresden, TU Stuttgart, TU Braunschweig and Yamaguchi University in recent years. In this century, the department aims at meeting the challenges of production and processing of food by strengthening its teaching and research programmes with the additional inputs of automation, information technology, agricultural biotechnology and environmental technology.