Academia calls for liberalising AgTech commercialisation

Munawar Hasan
Tuesday, Mar 21, 2023

LAHORE: Farm productivity and water use efficiency can be enhanced tremendously through simplifying commercialisation of cutting-edge agricultural technology (AgTech) and use of drones in farming sector, stressed Dr Muhammad Abubakr, Executive Director, Centre for Water Informatics & Technology (WiT) at LUMS.

“Growers need not to worry anymore about applying farm inputs like water, fertilizers or pesticides on entire fields. Instead, AgTech enables them to go for targeted use of these inputs in appropriate quantities on a required area. Application of moisture and temperature sensors, aerial imaging and positioning systems, tunnel farm monitoring and diverse use of drones have increasingly become vital tools of today’s agriculture,” said Dr Abubakr and his team, including Dr Jawairia Ahmad, Dr Talha Manzoor and others at a media briefing here at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) on Monday to a group of journalists.

Unlike exponential adoptability of innovative farm technologies in the region, unfortunately, growth of AgTech has been slow in the country mainly because of cumbersome regulation process and curbs on use of drones at farms. We need to promote use of new technologies to meet the challenges related to water resources management due to urbanization, climate change, and population growth, observed Dr Abubakr. He added that it is particularly important to allow technology-driven interventions for increasing agricultural water productivity.

He also presented several key findings from computational models and field experiments that demonstrate the transformative potential of disruptive technologies for the water-energy-land nexus in the region. These interventions include updating bulk irrigation delivery, providing digital irrigation advisory services for farmers, making a business case for water conservation technologies, adopting nature-inspired practices, and balancing technology investments on demand and supply.

He also highlighted the costs of the action, no-action, and cooperation in meeting the basin's sustainable development agenda and warns of the potential drawbacks of technology-based water efficiency routes. For instance, he maintained, Pakistan can save billions of dollars every year alone by investing in efficient use of water.