Neela’s Parent Company Sapphire Fibres LTD Invests In Drone Technology To Enable Sustainable Agriculture In Pakistan

Agriculture contributes about 26 per cent of Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP), employs half of the country’s labour force, and is the country’s largest source of foreign exchange earnings. Amidst the pandemic, the country’s agricultural sector faces challenges that can be overcome by prioritising innovation and bringing technological solutions such as drones to farmers.

Simply, by using drones to increase crop yields and reduce input costs, farmers in Pakistan could save an estimated $1.3 billion annually. Agriculture and the communities where Neela operates are profoundly affected by poverty. In small to mid-sized farms, this lack of economic stability and data can result in business losses and reduced customer confidence.

We can break this negative cycle by providing access to technology that can help farmers collect data and manage their crops. Through our experience in building businesses from the ground up, we are able to improve access to agricultural technology such as drones in Pakistan. 

The Problem

Even though Pakistan has a very large agricultural economy, it still lags behind the rest of the world in adopting best agricultural practices. Lack of research and development, lack of education, and lack of investment are all responsible for this trend. Consequently, the yield per acre is low compared to other countries

The industry faces insurmountable challenges, such as a rapidly declining water supply, technological stagnation, and low-quality seeds.

Water demand in the country has increased since the 1950s, as a consequence of population growth, urbanisation, water-intensive farming, and industrialization. In addition to the country’s water scarcity crisis, its poor governance and slow economic growth are inhibiting its ability to alleviate poverty.

This has resulted in both an increase in economic vulnerabilities and decreased business confidence, which translates into fewer investments and technological advancements. Disadvantaged communities are also restricted in their access to markets and resources due to these factors.

Opportunities and Challenges

In Brazil, for example, drones have helped reduce herbicide use by 52 per cent. Further drones can spray pesticides at a speed 40 times faster than traditional pesticide applicators. This has the potential to save 90 percent water and up to 40 per cent chemical use. Drones can also carry as much as 10 kilograms of liquid in their tanks and cover an area of 6000 square meters in just ten minutes.

As one of the oldest and largest textile manufacturers, our role in the textile ecosystem feels more like a responsibility since we have access to the most advanced technology and provide the best products on the market.

We are also a trusted name in agriculture (because we are among the top buyers) – so we were quick to step up and offer the latest technology to help farmers manage their crop production.

In the era of information, farmers can make informed decisions based on economic and environmental factors – for example, by optimising fertiliser application and applying it only when it is needed, significant savings can be made on chemicals and energy.

Changing large-scale infrastructure requires extensive data collection, detailed mapping, and regular inspections; when performed in remote and hard-to-reach areas, such as farmlands in Pakistan, these operations can come at a steep price and may compromise farmer safety.

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