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ISLAMABAD: Advancing its ambition to further empower the agriculture sector, Telenor Pakistan, in collaboration with Tabadlab and the GSMA, has unveiled a report, “AgriTech: Crafting Pakistan’s Journey to Impact”.

The report identifies existing challenges to the sector and evaluates the impact that AgriTech will have on accelerating growth. The authors find that adopting modern agricultural techniques and targeted AgriTech interventions can boost national outputs and improve socioeconomic outcomes.

The report launch event was held at Telenor Pakistan’s 345 Campus in Islamabad. Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal attended the event as the chief guest, while management and participants from Telenor Pakistan, the GSMA and Tabadlab were also present.

The AgriTech report combines study and insights from the GSMA and Tabadlab’s Centre for Digital Transformation to carve the ideal path forward for Pakistan’s agricultural sector. It highlights how technology and digitalisation boost the nation’s crop yields.

The report highlights the importance of aligning public and private sector approaches towards agriTech for increased adoption. In addition, the report shows how agritech operates at the intersection of the technology and agriculture ecosystems, making it essential to understand and analyse drivers and trends of digital technologies as means to unpack agritech in Pakistan.

Delivering his keynote at the launch, Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal said, “In this age, technology and innovation are the most significant game-changers that are redefining the dynamics of the agriculture sector. Technology enables farmers to become more knowledgeable and competitive, transforming Pakistan’s agricultural landscape.

This report will further empower the farmers of Pakistan in breaking barriers and revolutionizing the Agri sector. Telenor Pakistan is a critical stakeholder in bringing innovation and learning on digitalisation from Norway, and I look forward to its talented workforce playing a pivotal role in a brighter Pakistan”.

The minister said technology and innovation were major game-changers in the current era and were playing an important role in redefining practices as in the agricultural sector.

“Despite the passage of 75 years, we have not been able to make the progress we should have. We are ashamed of our generations. At present, Bangladesh, India and other countries in the region are ahead of us,” Iqbal said.

“I apologize to my new generation at this time, but I am referring to the past 75 years and I think that in the days to come, in 2047, the younger generation will not stand in front of history and feel the same way,” he said.

He said that in the present era technology and innovation are big game-changers who are playing an important role in redefining methods as an agricultural sector, changing the landscape of Pakistan’s agricultural sector. Raising awareness and making them more competitive, the report empowers farmers to abandon the old ways of farming and revolutionize the agricultural sector, he said.

Speaking at the report launch, Telenor Pakistan CEO Irfan Wahab Khan stated, “The report presents the blueprint for a better-performing agriculture sector that can result in higher yields for farmers and have an impact of up to USD 10 billion on the nation’s GDP.

We know there is an eagerness to make the digital shift, thanks to the immense success of Khushaal Zamindaar in guiding farmers with data-driven best practices in farming. There is also an opportunity for agritech services to become entry points for farmers to become financially included, given that currently, they constitute less than 30 percent. So, the next step should be to further improve Agritech adoption throughout the county and fortify an industry that employs 40 per cent of the nation’s labour force.”

Umar Nadeem, a founding partner at Tabadlab, said: “To meet the needs of the agriculture sector, AgriTech services must grow. Despite positive trends, significant opportunities exist for the ecosystem to grow and support existing and new entrants. The private sector has been a crucial player in expanding Pakistan’s AgriTech footprint and integrating technology into the farmer’s everyday life, but to successfully address challenges in the agriculture value chain through technology, private agriculture solutions need to be cultivated through increased capital, government support, and innovation cycles.”

Agriculture is a crucial sector for Pakistan’s economy as the highest employer of the labour force, with approximately 25 million Pakistanis earning their livelihoods from it. However, the country’s crop yields are lower than comparable international benchmarks despite a quarter of Pakistan’s landmass being cultivated and used for agricultural production.

This has presented the right opportunity to focus on the sector’s digital transformation through connectivity, data, artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, and innovation. AgriTech holds the potential to produce efficient farming mechanisms while enhancing livelihoods and giving farmers greater control over their yields.

Since 2015, Telenor Pakistan has been empowering Pakistani farmers to push forward the agriculture industry with digitalisation solutions.

Through interventions like Khushaal Zamindaar and Khushaal Angaan, the portfolio has also targeted tailored solutions for women farmers, which has been a source of socioeconomic uplift for millions of Pakistani agricultural communities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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