Dr. Kausar Abdullah Malik (T.I, S.I, H.I), the Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research, underscored the critical importance of addressing the technological needs of small-scale farmers, who play a significant role in ensuring food security and boosting export earnings.
Speaking at a conference on ‘Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture,’ jointly organized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MoNFSR) at the HEC Secretariat on Thursday, the Minister focused on the challenges posed by climate change and the increasing global population. He emphasized that the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in agriculture is not just an option but a strategic imperative to effectively tackle these challenges.
The conference, attended by researchers, agricultural scientists, faculty members, and students from agricultural universities, featured two technical sessions: “Application of AI in Agriculture” and “Application of AI for Food Security.” Additionally, a panel discussion on “Priorities for Policy, Ownership, and Resources of AI in Agriculture and Food Security” took place.
Dr. Kausar Abdullah Malik stressed the significance of accumulating and utilizing data for remarkable growth in Pakistan’s largest industry, agriculture. He acknowledged the pivotal role of the academic community in the country’s agricultural development, asserting that their contributions are applicable to the sector. The Minister affirmed that Artificial Intelligence holds immense potential for fostering sustainability in Pakistan’s agriculture sector, describing it as a beacon of hope for transforming the landscape.
Highlighting the government’s commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technologies, he assured that they are dedicated to advancing agriculture in the country through the adoption of AI.
Chairman HEC, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, welcomed participants and acknowledged the crucial role of universities in preventing food scarcity in Pakistan. He identified administrative issues as a significant challenge in enhancing collaboration between academia, agriculture sector experts, farmers, and national entities. Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed stressed the need for consolidated efforts among various stakeholders, including HEC, Ministry of National Food Security, Pakistan Academy of Sciences, Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, and Pakistan Space & Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO).
Encouraging universities to align their research focus with national challenges, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed highlighted HEC’s substantial investments in developing ICT infrastructure across Pakistan. He mentioned the establishment of data centers in Lahore and Karachi and the commitment to employ cloud computing for increased efficiency.
Executive Director HEC, Dr. Zia Ul-Qayyum, addressed the lack of collaboration among stakeholders as a major challenge for effective AI utilization. He emphasized the need for synergy and coordination to meet contemporary agricultural needs, stressing the significance of multi-disciplinary research and applied projects.
Sharing conference recommendations, Member Research & Innovation HEC, Dr. Bushra Mirza, outlined the speakers’ emphasis on adopting the latest technology for efficiency, establishing a common platform for data collection, and aligning policies with the requirements of Agroecological Zones. The conference also highlighted the importance of regulating drone technology, developing practical tools for farmers, forming a consortium of agriculture researchers, and capacity building for students, faculty, and researchers in the agriculture sector.
In his keynote address, Adviser Sybrid Private Ltd. Dr. Faud Imran Khan provided an overview of AI applications in agriculture. He highlighted AI’s reliance on data and algorithms for decision-making, emphasizing its role as a tool to accomplish tasks efficiently. Dr. Khan underscored the diverse utility of AI technologies like Chatbots, Farmers.com, Digital Green, and Kissan GPT in agriculture.
He showcased the transformative potential of AI in precision agriculture, weather forecasting, livestock health monitoring, and early warning systems, citing examples of Pakistani startups leading in AI advancements for irrigation optimization, product management, and autonomous machinery integration. Dr. Khan stressed the imperative need for widespread AI adoption for the progress of agriculture, expressing concern about escalating pesticide usage and advocating for sustainable agricultural practices.