China digital farming: Pak-project “Digital Dera” comes into play
China’s digital farming and smart agriculture practices are going to be a shot in the arm of Pakistan’s agriculture growth with inspiration from Chinese agro-based innovative technologies and techniques. A group of young Pakistani agri-tech entrepreneurs have pioneered a project “Digital Dera” in district Pakpattan, around 148 kilometres away from Lahore.
A tech-savvy project “Digital Dera” aims to empower farmers with cutting-edge agriculture solutions and assist them in the creation of smart communities. Talking to Gwadar Pro, founder of “Digital Dera” and co-founder of a Think Tank 'Agriculture Republic', Aamer Hayat Bhandara emphasised that data, information, advisory and technology are pre-requisites for maximising agricultural growth.
He believed that despite the ideal weather and fertile land, Pakistan is unable to achieve the standard yield due to the lack of modern agricultural techniques. He also urged the usage of sensors to assist farmers in making accurate decisions for their crops. He was of the view that because China is leading the world in technological innovation, therefore, he proposed that Chinese agro-based companies aligned with modern agriculture vision may digitally equip Pakistani farmers by transferring technology of agriculture drones, geo-tagging, data collection through satellite imagery, electric tractors and human resource development.
Talking about the impact and prospects of “Digital Dera”, he said that this model can easily be replicated anywhere in the country. He also looked forward to collaborating with China on capacity building and the transfer of digital technology in agriculture.
It is an encouraging development that footprints of China digital farming in Pakistan are getting visible. Farmland Digital Integrated Management System, which Shandong ARK IT Business implemented in east China's Shandong Province, is now working on digital agriculture development in Pakistan. While supplying high-quality drip irrigation and sprinkler irrigation equipment, the company also uses artificial intelligence technologies to help Pakistan's small farmers and large-scale plantations save money and boost efficiency.
The Farmland Digital Integrated Management System's machine vision and intelligence are primarily used for monitoring plant diseases and insect pests. To achieve agricultural production prediction, pest control, and other challenges, the system uses artificial intelligence technologies such as computer vision, picture recognition, and deep learning. Pakistani farmers can directly replicate the advanced Chinese agricultural technology in order to accomplish higher crop yields to ensure food security in the country.
It should be noted that, Pakistani food imports have risen by 54 per cent during the last fiscal year. In Pakistan, various factors have contributed to increased food imports, and one of them is low crop yield.
According to a study conducted by Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited in 2020, Pakistan is far behind other countries, as far as crop yield is concerned. This study emphasised the use of technology to improve crop yield.
Traditional farms are considerably less efficient and sustainable than digital farms, whereas digital farming entails the use of new technologies such as data science, digital communication channels, automation, and sensors. As a result, an increasing number of farmers have access to improved data, allowing them to make better decisions in order to increase output and reduce waste. By employing modern technology and digitizing the agriculture regime of the country through Chinese collaboration, Pakistan can address food security issues, save foreign exchange by lowering food imports and can also enhance the income of millions of farmers across the country.