ISLAMABAD   -  The Ministry of Information Technology and  Telecom (MoITT),  and  Food and Agriculture Organization  (FAO) held a joint event to announce the winners of an ‘Agrisurge Innovation Challenge’ that was aimed at accelerating  development of Pakistan’s agriculture sector using advanced technologies.

Under the contest, the organisers had sought innovative solutions that could boost Pakistan’s agriculture, increase the resilience of food systems, and help transform small farmers through 4th Industrial Wave (4IW) technologies. Around 738 participants had applied for the challenge, organised by the Ignite National Technology Fund of the MoITT in collaboration with FAO of the United Nations, a press release said.

The selected teams submitted their working prototypes, which were evaluated by independent judges appointed by Ignite and FAO including local and international domain experts.

First case prize went to Smart Ecosystem for Bees ‘Silver Bees’ for its solution to digitalize the ecosystem for beekeeping and honey farming, whereas Smart Poultry Farming ‘SmartFarms’ won the second prize for their IoT sensors-based solution to collect data using Arduino/Raspberry Pi. The 3rd cash prize was secured by FarmMach Share ‘CyberVision’ for providing a comprehensive digital solution to help farmers to fully exploit the potential of existing farm machinery by making them available as a shared resource.

A special cash prize was given to Humaray Khayt ‘Tech 3PO’ for developing an application which provides separate interfaces for each type of crop and operates with pictorials in Urdu.

Speaking on the occasion, Federal  Secretary IT and Telecommunication ,  Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui said this innovation challenge was launched with a view to strengthen the agriculture sector which had a great importance in economic development of the country.

Looking at the innovative solutions and the passion with which participants from all across Pakistan competed, he said it was evident that the country’s tech-savvy youth was ready to address the challenges and problems faced by agriculture sector through technological interventions. He said, “I’m happy that the women led team clinched the 1st prize rather than settling for the special prize we earlier kept for any such team.”

FAO Representative in Pakistan Rebekah Bell said the Agrisurge challenge would serve as an important step towards achieving food security and improving lives of the most vulnerable across Pakistan at a time when livelihoods were severely disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FAO Pakistan, she said, was helping the country to ensure systematic improvement in agriculture by introducing innovation and shifting the “Business as Usual Models” to more innovative approaches.

“Data-driven global agriculture and digital innovations — artificial intelligence promise progressive changes in the farming landscape,” she said, adding the FAO was confident that digital technologies used to generate innovative responses in the agriculture sector, referred to as e-Agriculture, would revolutionize the agriculture sector of the country. Ignite CEO Asim Shahryar Husain said, “The overwhelming response to Ignite and FAO’s call for innovative solutions in the field of agriculture reflects the significance of the sensitivities of food security in the country.”

He said the Ignite would continue to explore new solutions besides strengthening the partnership with the winners of this challenge. “I hope this competition will ignite the farming community and will be a founding step in solving agriculture-related problems using technology.”