Pakistan is Missing Out on a Huge Opportunity by Not Using Tech in Agriculture

We have been hearing about how Pakistan is an agricultural country and most of our economy depends on agricultural output. The same can be said about the rural population which accounts for nearly all of the agricultural production and about 63 percent of the whole population.

Pakistan boasts some of the most impressive numbers when it comes to output and the human resources involved in its agricultural sector. The kicker is that we can do a lot better.

Let me explain why. But first let’s take a look at how Pakistan’s agriculture sector is being utilized currently.

Agriculture in Pakistan

About 113 million people in Pakistan reside in rural areas. These people are also linked with agriculture in Pakistan. Pakistan has a semi-industrialized economy with a well-integrated agriculture sector.

According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, 43.5% Pakistan’s labor force is involved in agriculture. The sector contributes a massive 21-25% to the country’s GDP.

Pakistan is among the top ten producers of wheat, cotton, sugarcane, mango, dates and kinnow oranges, and responsible for about 10 percent of the world’s rice trade.

Livestock accounts for 40 percent of the sector and contributes 11 percent to the GDP. Over 35 million people are employed by the livestock sector.

Despite Pakistan being one of the top agricultural countries and continuously improving in its agricultural production, about half of the population is food insecure, according to the World Food Program.

The ever increasing population, struggling water resources, decreasing agricultural labor force due to urban migration, increasing demand for food and cash crops is putting significant burden on the agriculture sector as it has to meet the increasing local and international demands.

This is creating a void in the sector which keeps widening as the demand and supply gap increases.

So how do we tackle this challenge? Read on.

Robot Farming & Rapid Growth

Not so long ago, Transparency Market Research (TMR) released a report, which predicted a noticeable increase in demand for agricultural robots for farming purposes.

As of 2016, the agricultural industry stands at yearly revenue of $1.01 billion is TMR suggests it will grow to at least $5.7 billion by 2024 based on the current annual growth.

The migration of population from traditional agricultural lands is increasing demand for food in such areas which has promoted the need for more work force and precise farming. This is where farm robots come in.

The Banirob farming robot

According to TMR, major agricultural robots designed these days can perform singular tasks in the following categories:

  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (for the spraying of pesticides and agro-chemicals)
  • Driverless tractors
  • Milking robots
  • Automated harvesting machines
  • And more miscellaneous tasks

In the long run, these robots can reduce labor force requirement, decrease costs, increase efficiency and boost the agricultural production.

How Pakistan Could Benefit From Farm Robots

Pakistan has 79.61 million hectors of land and more than half of it is cultivable. Yet only 22.07 million hectors are cultivated while the rest is left unused, given the herculean effort required to make it cultivable. Similarly, Pakistan’s urban population has increased by nearly 21 percent since 1998 with increasing food demand. This has resulted in a cut in the agricultural labor force.

With the use of robot farming, the uncultivated land can be brought to use and current production can be maximized through automation and machine learning.

Panasonic Tomato Picker

On a similar note, livestock sector can make use of robots to decrease expenses in the long run and increase output. While most of the world is accepting robots for the livestock sector, Pakistan is still working on a manual basis.

Some common robots in livestock and agriculture sector are:

  • UAV
  • Driverless Tractors
  • Milking Robots
  • Automated Harvesting Machine
  • Egg collectors
  • Fruit Pickers
  • Harvesting Robots
  • Farm Maintenance Robots

Robots can also help in improving the quality and cleanliness of the livestock and cultivation product. For example, robot milk farms are much more safer for health than manual ones.

Added Benefit of Promoting Robot Farming in Pakistan

Being an agri-centric state, Pakistan can also take a lead in robot production during its growth phase. Like Pakistan’s research departments on plant seeds and crop growth, if the government or the private sector funds research on farm robots, Pakistan could end up with a major share of the robot farming industry as well.

Asia and Pacific region is among the top markets for robot farms but lacks competitive players in the market. More robot manufacturers could also help boost adoption of farm robots.

It is evident that the need for farm robots will increase and Pakistan needs robots to increase its agricultural output. Having a linked farming robot industry, with robots designed specifically for countries with conditions like Pakistan, could be an added benefit and boost our GDP by much more.

Limitations of Robot Farming

While robot farming is growing, it isn’t seeing rapid progress. The major factor behind it are the limitations of farm robots. Most robots are limited to a single task and current technology is still some time away from developing robots that could run unmanned farms.

As with all upcoming products, the costs are quite high due to limited global demand and technical expenditure. Once parts become cheaper and are developed on a wider scale, the price will drop and farm robots will see a much wider adoption.

Possible Issues of Robot Farming in Pakistan

In Pakistan’s agriculture sector, Technicians and Associated Professional account for just 0.06 percent of the whole labor force while Plant & Machine Operators and Assemblers are a mere 0.31 percent of the force. This shows that technical expertise is nearly non-existent in Pakistan in this sector.

The major factor here is the lack of consideration of agriculture related jobs and weak education system in Pakistan. More educated people would also mean more technical experts but due to lack of jobs in rural areas, educated and technical personnel, which are already limited, head towards urban areas in search of better jobs. Robot farms would need technical personnel to look after the working of the equipment and that is an issue amongst Pakistan’s less educated farmers.

There’s also the factor of limited funds as far as small and medium scale farmers are concerned. Such farmers make up a big chunk of the total output but most of them cannot even afford tractors. As of 2004, Pakistan only had 401,000 tractors in the whole country, and considering the slow growth over the past decades, the number is still estimated to be around 600,000 right now.

Pakistanis still haven’t adopted the machinery, which is common amongst the farmers in the west, so adoption of farm robots would need some wide-scale awareness campaigns, government funding and promotion of tech in agriculture.

Final Words

Pakistan, being one of the top producers of the most needed agricultural products, is slowly starting to lag behind the rest of the world in terms of efficiency. Steps need to be taken in order to promote technology in Pakistan’s agriculture sector.

Use of latest machinery and automated robots can help raise living standards of farmers and farm owners. The government and the private sector needs to assess the huge potential of technical implementation in Pakistan’s agriculture.

Not only will it speed up product harvesting and in turn prevent produce from rotting before reaching its destination, it will also improve produce handling resulting in better quality items. In short, it means that use of technology could mean more income for farmers, more taxes and foreign reserves for the government.

He is the Editor at ProPakistani. Reach him at [email protected]