MNSUA University together with SAWIE & Plymouth University, England organized a farmer awareness seminar for Sustainable cotton production using Artificial Intelligence. This project was part of the Texonomy project funded by the British council involving the University of Northumbria, LUMS, National Textile University, University of Glasgow, UCL, and UPSIGN to address the climate change crisis in Pakistan affecting the most economic sector Textile. This sector provides more than 40% of the manufacturing sector job. There are more than 1.2 million cotton famers with majority of them are smallholders who own less than 5 acres. Textile sectors play a vital role in Pakistan economy with foreign exchange earnings of more than $22 billion (APTMA 2021).
The partnership developed a state of a digital solution for early detection of most of the lethal diseases of cotton. This includes the Cotton Leaf Curl Virus(CLCV), other pests & diseases including white flies, pink bollworms, and other biotic and abiotic stresses. Since the pests have developed pesticide resistance, it is important that farmers get this knowledge of when to spray and where to spray in the field. The mobile app is capable to guide farmers in real time about better managing their crops from sowing to harvesting.
More than 120 local farmers, students and faculty took part in the seminar. Dr Salman Qadri, the project lead from computer science department explained the scope of the project. Talking to the seminar, Vice Chancellor Prof Asif Ali, admired the support of the British council enabling the collaboration between Pakistan and the UK. He emphasized the need to develop such solutions that will help to protect the declining yield of cotton crops in Pakistan due to climate change severity. This will help our rural heritage and the prosperity of women whose Livelihood is dependent on cotton.
Dr Asiya Khan from the University of Plymouth said we are excited to work with Pakistan to address its agritech challenge of sustainable cotton production using computer vision and advanced analytical tools. Eng. Mushtaq Gill (TI), CEO of SAWIE said, we are delighted to share our experience of working with MNSUA using the state of the Art Satellite and digital technologies to guide smallholder cotton farmers who facing the burn of climate change from water arability, poor soil health and threat from pests and diseases.
SAWIE platform is promoting digital technologies for supporting innovative solutions to produce more crops per drop of water using irrigation scheduling advice based on remote sensing. This innovation will help improve farmers’ income by reducing losses and improving yield. The simple solutions of raised bed planting and the use of laser leveling have seen a significant reduction in water losses and improved water productivity. We need to encourage farmers about water efficient crops.
Prof Irfan Baig, Dean Faculty of Agriculture sciences said, MNSUA university is taking lead in training farmers with modern technologies and this cooperation is in the right direction to improve crop yield and farmer income. Dr. Khalid Mahmood, head of Agritech UPSIGN which is a UK Pakistan Science & Innovation Global network supporting collaboration between two countries said, it is an exciting time that a UK university and researchers to take a keen interest to address the challenges of smallholder cotton farmers. Cotton provides Fiber, Food, Feed, Fuel, and Fashion to millions of people. Dr Ayseha Hakim gave insight into Remote Sensing & IoT-based solutions that can help farmers to make appropriate decisions to protect their crop losses and help improve their income. She thanked the participants and appreciated the need to continue this research and industry collaborations.