Pak-China Joint Lab for AI to intelligentize Pakistan’s agriculture

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Pak-China Joint Lab for AI to intelligentize Pakistan’s agriculture

ISLAMABAD, JUL 08 (DNA) — Pak-China recently set up Joint Lab for AI will intelligentize Pakistan’s agriculture. In a wheat fields of Punjab province, drones’ “queue” are patrolling, with intelligent management and control systems are replacing manual “care” for crops. 

Farmers could accurately perform operations such as fertilization and irrigation with just one click on their mobile phones.  Such brand-new technologies are credited to the China-Pakistan cooperation project “High-throughput Crop Monitoring Using Computer Vision for Climate Smart Agriculture.”

In May, the Pakistan China Joint Lab for Artificial Intelligence and Smart Agriculture (AI&SA) has been established at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF). Punjab Province, as Pakistan’s main agricultural production area, its annual grain output accounts for about 76% of the country’s total annual grain output, Gwadar Pro reported on Monday.

Both parties agreed that it has unique advantages to carry out pilot applications of high-throughput crop monitoring projects here.  In this province, about 600 farmers have joined the pilot application. Dr. Iqrar Ahmad Khan, Vice Chancellor UAF, noted lately that in the 25,000 villages across Punjab, if drone spraying technology could be adopted on a large scale, it will help increase productivity, reduce costs and greatly promote the development of intelligent agriculture.

“We use drones equipped with visual recognition equipment to fly around the fields to achieve intelligent management of crop monitoring, cultivation management, pest and disease analysis, and agricultural production, including growth determination, crop health monitoring, water requirement analysis, fertilization, as well as pesticide application,” Dr Wu Jun, the Chinese Director of the lab, introduced.

Wheat speed breeding facility [Photo provided by the lab] Mohammad Malik, a local farmer who has been growing wheat, sugarcane and other crops in Punjab for more than 30 years, is one of the participants in the pilot project. 

At first, he had many doubts about the project. “This technology is too complicated for farmers like me, and I doubt its effectiveness and practicality.” The project team members promptly explained it, “We could produce a text guide and audio-visual materials of the vegetation health map written in the local dialect and send them to your son’s smartphone application.”

“We now have a more accurate grasp of the water and fertilizer needs of crops, which avoids over- or under-watering as we did in the past, thus reduces input costs,” said Malik, with joy, he has learned how to use these techniques.  “Now our whole family is looking forward to this innovative technology helping us increase the yields.”

It is well known that the biggest difficulty facing traditional farming is the unpredictable natural climate and the impact of pests and diseases, which leads to the dual instability of food production and income.  Pakistan, is one of the world’s top ten wheat and rice producers, with agriculture accounting for about 18.9% of its GDP and employing 44.2% of the country’s labor force. 

Despite its favorable agricultural planting foundation, Pakistan is one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and one of the ten countries with the largest number of people facing severe sudden hunger.

Today, the Joint Lab has 9 doctors and several masters and engineers working on the development of high-throughput crop monitoring projects.  Pakistan has also sent several postdoctoral fellows to Guangzhou, China, to learn AI technologies. “I come from a farmer’s family thus I totally understand the problems faced by our farmers. 

By now, severe heat waves and water shortages have become our main challenges. I joined the team to provide farmers with real-time data to help them optimize their planting decisions and ensure community food security,” Saqib Ali, a Pakistani researcher at the lab, mentioned.

“Bringing AI technology to Pakistan and applying it to agriculture to help local farmers solve the problem of hunger is the most important thing as well as our biggest goal,” said Dr. Wu.  By now, the World Bank and the Asian Disaster Management Center has provided funding support for the project, emphasizing the importance of this innovative solution in addressing climate challenges and enhancing agricultural sustainability. — DNA