Annual Agritech Conferences
2nd Agritech Conference 2023
“Revitalizing Agriculture in Pakistan”
Agriculture has been an essential part of Pakistan’s economy since the very beginning. Although Pakistan is ranked 7th in the world in terms of value added from Agriculture, farming has been on the decline. Pakistan’s agricultural sector has major roles to play in its economy as it provides food for the people, raw material for the industry, brings in foreign exchange, and provides a market for industrial goods and machinery. However, the share from agriculture in Pakistan’s GDP has been falling as it was 53% in 1949-50 to 24% in 2021-22 1. Once self sufficient, the country is now dependent on importing essential food items, in the current fiscal year (2022-23) Pakistan has faced an initial shortfall of 3 million metric tonnes in wheat production.
Livestock also has the highest potential for growth and poverty alleviation in the short term in Pakistan. It is considered critical for the livelihood of landless rural population as well as subsistence level farmers specially women who do not own any other assets either. Women who undertake much of the work in this sector are unable to reap any benefits.
Restricted mobility, no access to markets, the health and quality of the livestock, the shortfall in production of staple foods are a few of several issues that are being faced by Agriculture and livestock in Pakistan. These need to be discussed and solutions need to be found. Farm management in Pakistan remains archaic and the farm holdings are disaggregated. The bulk of the country’s holdings are small farm holdings of less than 5 acres. Not only does this make it difficult to implement changes and policies, it also presents challenges in increasing yield and improving the condition for farmers.
Water scarcity and wastage is another major concern for Pakistan. It is the 5th most vulnerable country to climate change and has been categorized as having extremely high level of water stress. In 2017 Pakistan used 363.64% of our internal water resources (much more than can be replaced through natural resources). Having a negative relationship with GDP, poorer countries have been using more water. In 2017, Pakistan used 93.98% share of its fresh water for agriculture and is projected to reach water scarcity by 2025. In 2018, Pakistan’s 53.22% land was irrigated (the deliberate provision or controlled flooding of agricultural land with water) which is not a sustainable method.
For agriculture to remain viable and sustainable, it is also essential to improve the income of farmers. This can be done in several ways. For example, improving the yield per acre off what the farmer is sowing, improving the quality and financing of inputs such as fertilizer, seeds herbicides, pesticides etc. Improving the timing and weather-related advisories. Use of modern technology in monitoring the crop from the time it is sowed to the time it is harvested.
Furthermore, the essential contribution of women in Pakistan’s agricultural productivity and ensuring household food security is substantial, with statistics indicating that 72 percent of women are associated with agriculture sector out of the total women labour force in Pakistan. Even though their contribution is essential to the sector, their status, contribution, challenges they face are not considered and structural discrimination exists.
Digital technologies can serve as “enabler” for establishing and maintaining productivity, food security, and increasing environmental benefits. Adoption and acceptance of digital farming technologies is important. An enabling environment is necessary with cross cutting and relevant digital transformational policies and an emphasis on multi-level integration. There has been no major improvement in farming technology since the sixties. For example, in comparison to neighboring countries with similar land and environment, an acre of land in Pakistan produces substantially low yield and a cow produces less amount of milk.
The purpose of the Agritech conference is to bring together stakeholders that can help regain Pakistan’s true stature in agriculture. The conference can serve as a starting point to initiate the discussion and find potential collaborative opportunities and solutions to the pressing issues being faced by Agriculture in Pakistan. This platform can be used by the agricultural value chain players to discuss ways in which to digitize the value chain, improve farmers’ access to formal financial products/services, better cropping tools, technology, reduce the information asymmetry, remove wastage and conserve agricultural resources. The conference will also include an overarching focus on gender mainstreaming agriculture in Pakistan with each panel discussion taking up the topic during their sessions.
1st Agritech Conference 2022
Agri-tech: Empowering the rural farmers
Pakistan is a lower-middle-income country with a GDP of USD 263.7 billion1 with service, industrial, and agriculture the three major contributing sectors. Being one of the major segments, the agriculture sector is considered the lifeline of the country and contributes around 24% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs more than 35% workforce. Recently with the technological shift and foreign investments in startups, the agriculture sector has also seen technological developments. As per the estimation more than 25 Agri-tech companies are operating in the market2. The categorization of these includes e-market Agri-ventures, tech-enabled farm advisory services, precision agriculture, online input providers, farm-to-market services, agricultural insurances, digital agri-credits, and supply chain services bid. Before moving to the agri-tech segments it is critical to understand how a traditional agricultural value chain operates in the country. The below figure represents how a traditional cropping cycle works for the farmers in Pakistan.
It is quite evident from the traditional value chain that both formal and informal sources and sectors are critical part of the agricultural value chain. For instance, during the first step when cash is needed for the cropping, the informal sources of arthi/family and friends as well as formal financing sources such as banks, and microfinance institutions (MFIs) play their role. Similarly, for purchasing inputs such as seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers farmers buy these from either arthi, dealers, directly companies, or other middlemen. Lastly, for selling the crops farmers either sell it to the government, local mills/factories, or to the informal market such as this. Now, with the introduction of new technological solutions and the emergence of agri-tech companies, they are somehow providing products or services at some point in this value chain. For this project these agri-tech companies are categorized into the following categories:
- Agri-tech service providers: This category includes companies that are providing technological solutions, such as drone-based pesticide sprays, yield surveillance, IVR services to farmers regarding crop practices, weather updates etc. Also, this includes the companies using any kind of technological solution to improve the yields, share necessary information with the farmers and overall reduce information asymmetry.
- Farm to markets: The most common model, farm to market offers consumers products/services sourced directly from the farmers or agricultural produce providers. For instance, companies offering directly sources fruits and vegetables from the farmers and deliver it the customers either via their app or web portal.
- Agri-insurance: As the name suggests such companies are offering products and services for farmers to protect their crops against any unforeseeable events. There are several products/services, but they are mainly of traditional nature. With the study of the current market and scenario in Pakistan, only two digital agri-insurance companies are operating in the country.
- Input Suppliers: Companies providing inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides to the farmers via an online portal or through mobile applications.
- Digital agri-finance: Companies offering digital credit facilities to farmers via their application or web portals. Such companies either use some sort of AI or algorithm technology to assess the loan taker’s paying ability or offer them unique products based on the non-availability of the traditional collateral such as gold/land etc.
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