CAS-D Thematic Areas

The CAS-D will provide evidence-based inputs on agricultural development strategy and policy to decision makers to push for PQI-led transformation of agriculture into a knowledge-based technology-led competitive industry. Initially (but not limited to), six chairs (digital agriculture, value-added agriculture, climate smart agriculture, smart water resources, industrial biotechnology, and smart entrepreneurship) are established for addressing the most important areas to boost agricultural production, reduce cost of production, increase farm profitability, promoted value-added agriculture, and boost agrifood exports through policy support aiming at strengthening academia, research, agricultural extension, industry and government linkages. The objective is to engage key stakeholders (universities & research organizations, agriculture department, local industry and farming community) in the University initiatives for transforming agriculture into a knowledge-based PQI-led competitive industry in the Potohar region and elsewhere.

The chairs of the thematic areas are designed to take full advantage of higher education in agricultural, livestock, environmental and development economic fields as the research-based agricultural strategy and policy are in demand. The chairs are entrusted to undertake research on key strategy and policy issues pertaining to agricultural development in Pakistan. Moreover, the Chairs are mandated to create strong university-policymaker linkages and share their expertise and facilities with public and private think tanks to suggest innovative strategic measures to accelerate the advancement of agriculture to meet the current and future local, national and global challenges. Advocacy shall be made an essential part of all thematic areas of CAS-D.

Digital Agriculture

Agriculture is being transformed with disruptive digital technologies worldwide. This has been increasingly improving production and productivity, ensuring shorter time to market, operating a streamlined agri-food chain and reducing operational costs. Digital technology is making inroads in agricultural, food and livestock industries, and it is not possible to continue thinking agriculture 'business as usual'.

Digital Agriculture initiative of PMAS-AAUR will promote automation in farming operations and postharvest handling processes. Hopefully this initiative will go a long way to increase agricultural productivity, reduce production cost, and increase farmers’ profitability. It will also make farming more convenient and thereby attract youth to the agriculture and agribusinesses. The CAS-D will adopt an integrated approach to develop the strategies and policies on the development and scaling up of digital agriculture technologies.

The Digital Agriculture Chair will focus on the knowledge-based strategy and policy development for strengthening the thematic area in Pakistan with focus on:

  1. Develop and promote automation in farm machinery to reduce cost of production.
  2. Develop package of precise agricultural inputs based on the agroclimatic zones and site- specific properties of the soils.
  3. Minimize the environmental effects related to offsite transport of agricultural chemicals from agricultural fields.
  4. Improve land / water productivity and net returns to the farmers by reducing the use of agricultural chemicals.
  5. Develop decision support systems to manage the information collected through spatial and temporal practices.
  6. Create awareness among the public and provide data for evidence-based policy formulation.
  7. Any other relating area of critical significance.

Value-Added Agriculture

Value added agriculture (VAA) refers to any activity or process to increase the economic value of an agricultural commodity. VAA generally includes: 1) manufacturing or processing (e.g. converting fresh fruit into jam, jelly, marmalade, concentrate, etc.); 2) particular production processes (e.g., organic produce, organic beef, hormone-free livestock, free-range chickens, etc.) or regional branding of product based on its origin (Geographical Indications, e.g. Darjeeling Tea grown in Darjeeling, India; Cuban cigars which are made from tobacco leaves grown in Cuba) that increase consumer appeal and willingness to pay a premium over similar but undifferentiated products; 3) marketing (e.g., product grading, packaging & labelling; direct marketing, niche marketing, etc.); and 4) special services (organic food restaurant; agricultural tourism, etc.). VAA in Pakistan has enormous potential because of availability of huge quantities of diverse raw materials and big food market. VAA can be used as a strategy to revitalize rural economy, increase farmers’ profitability, generate employment, and enhance national nutrition security and agri-food exports.

The VAA Chair is entrusted with development of the knowledge-based strategy and policies to strengthen the thematic area with focus on the following deliverable(s):

  1. Agro-/food-processing
  2. New Product development
  3. Developing strategies for fortified, nutraceutical and high nutrition food products
  4. Transforming low value products and agricultural waste into valuable products
  5. Value addition during harvest and postharvest handling (storage, transport, packaging, etc.)
  6. Value addition at farm level
  7. Any other relating area of critical significance

Climate Smart Agriculture

Climate change has threatened agricultural and food production systems worldwide, and Pakistan is no exception. Countries with arid climate and shrinking water resource like Pakistan are facing the challenge of increasing food insecurity due to decline in food production especially in arid environments. There is an urgent need to combat the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture and food production systems through development of climate smart agriculture (CSA). The CSA can be achieved through adoption of smart mitigation, adaptation and resilience strategies including development of climate-resilient agriculture and food production systems. For developing early warning systems, a strategic think tank and researchers’ network as well as infrastructure for monitoring and predictions of climatic events, it is necessary to develop and strengthen the institutional capacity. Tangible strategy and policies for development of CSA and their mainstreaming into overall agricultural development planning will be critical.

The CSA Chair will focus on the knowledge-based strategy and policy development to support decision makers in their efforts to make agriculture climate smart with focus on the following deliverables:

  1. Climate smart agricultural production systems and technologies
  2. Strengthening research and development to combat climate change
  3. Mainstreaming climate change in agricultural strategy and development policy
  4. Financing climate change adaptation in agriculture
  5. Creating awareness among the public and providing data for evidence-based policy formulation
  6. Any other relating area of critical significance

Smart Water Resources (SWR)

Water security is one of the most critical challenges to Pakistan’s development. Though Pakistan is at risk of acute water scarcity, it has the world's fourth-highest rate of water use and the world’s highest water intensity rate. Its surface and groundwater sources are increasingly stressed, and severe drought conditions persist in parts of the country due to a lack of rain and irrigation water shortage. With a projected population up to 400 million in 2050, Pakistan needs to put serious thought into how it will provide adequate water for different sectors of economy including agriculture in the face of rapidly dwindling reserves.

Around 92% of Pakistan’s land area is arid or semi-arid with extensive agriculture sector. Farming is dominated by flood methods of irrigation and five water-intensive crops: wheat, sugarcane, rice, cotton, and maize. As a result, agriculture uses 93% of the water consumed in Pakistan compared to the global average of around 70%.

Water infrastructure in Pakistan is outdated and in poor condition, which waste even more water. A small fraction of surface water is stored because of a lack of reservoirs and sediment build-up in existing facilities. The water that is available is often unclean, with little infrastructure in place to provide clean water. The poor governance and management in the water sector aggravates the situation. The climate change associated events such as frequent droughts, floods and storms and more fluctuations in precipitation and surface water supplies; and increasing crop’s water requirements due to elevating temperatures will worsen the water crisis.

There is an urgent need to adopt a holistic approach and work on war footing to store, conserve and rehabilitate available water resources and increase water-use efficiency in all sectors of economy including agriculture. Smart water management systems will be needed for a more resilient and efficient water harvest, storage and distribution; improvement and maintenance of irrigation water infrastructure; rehabilitation of water resources; increasing water-use efficiency in agriculture; and improving the sustainability of overall agricultural water supply system. This will require putting in place knowledge-based sound policy and institutional arrangements in place.

The SWR Chair is entrusted with the knowledge-based strategy and policy development for strengthening the thematic area with focus on the following deliverables:

  1. Water harvest and storage
  2. Development of water efficient cropping/farming systems
  3. Development of water conservation technologies
  4. Adoption of smart water resource management systems
  5. Rehabilitation of water resources
  6. Any other relating area of critical significance

Innovative Industrial Biotechnology (IIB)

Industrial biotechnology utilizes molecular biology techniques to produce industrial bio-products from plants, animals, microorganisms and enzymes. Biomaterials are utilized for sustainable production of new useful products for pharmaceutical, healthcare, chemical, detergent, paper & pulp, household and agricultural industries. The innovative approaches utilizing renewable biomass lowers the greenhouse gas emissions producing safe and biodegradable materials.

Recent developments in the industrial biotechnology have shown great potential in solving many problems faced by agriculture related industries. Today, biotechnology-based products are profoundly improving the crops we grow, food we eat, medicines we take, environment we live in, and thousands of everyday products we use. The industrial biotechnology products are need of the day for agriculture-related industries providing jobs and other forms of economic development in the country.

PMAS-AAUR has a strong base to expand applications of industrial biotechnology in agriculture and livestock production for greater economic return. The university recognized earlier that the science and innovative applications of biotechnology are well suited for a place strong in agriculture, native plants, forestry, food, and livestock. The IIB Chair is entrusted with the knowledge-based strategy and policy development for strengthening the thematic area with focus on the following (but not limited to) areas:

  1. Molecular and chemical characterization of crop plants
  2. Production of quality seeds/planting materials
  3. Effective biotic and abiotic stresses management in crops
  4. Genomics and Gene Editing for varietal improvement
  5. Phenomics, system biology, gene expression studies and enabling technologies in crop plants
  6. Risk assessment and release of GM crops

Smart Entrepreneurship(SE)

Entrepreneurship is regarded as a type of business acumen which may be enhanced through improvements in know-how, skills, and competency. The CAS-D focus on development of smart entrepreneurship is prompted by an underlying assumption that fostering of entrepreneurship has longer-lasting benefits than other forms of assistance, such as technology, finance, and partnership arrangements.

Entrepreneurship drives societal health and wealth, and economic growth. It promotes the innovation essential to exploit new opportunities, promote productivity, and create employment, and to address some of society’s greatest challenges, such as the UN SDGs or the economic shockwave created by a pandemic like the COVID-19. The development of entrepreneurship should be central to government for the foreseeable future, considering the country’s already fragile economy and significant negative impacts of pandemic on economy. Government and other stakeholders will increasingly need credible data-based insights to make key decisions that stimulate sustainable forms of entrepreneurship and promote healthy entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Pakistan has all the intrinsic drivers to advance the entrepreneurship and make it the next big South Asia market for startups. It has increasing digital connectivity and internet use, the unprecedented number of educated/skilled young people entering the workforce, a big population, a burgeoning middle class, and existing incumbents in key industries that are rife for disruption. Though the country has challenges, the infrastructure here is comparable to other developing countries such as Bangladesh or Nigeria, which have already seen notable startup successes.

The government and the private sector will have to work together for the country to reach its full potential. While the government can create a facilitating environment for start-ups to flourish, the private sector should be looking to create value through funding the next big disruption. Together, they can cultivate the right talent to unleash an entrepreneurial revolution in the country.

In view of the significant contribution of agriculture and agribusiness (a big chunk of which comprises micro enterprises and SMEs) to the national economy, the SE Chair is mandated with the evidence-based strategy and policy development for the decision makers to make decisions that stimulate sustainable forms of rural/agribusiness entrepreneurship and promote healthy rural/ agribusiness entrepreneurial ecosystems to revitalize rural economy in Pakistan with focus on the following areas:

  1. Assessing current status of the entrepreneurship development/ entrepreneurial ecosystems
  2. Designing Policies and facilitating infrastructure.
  3. Financing start-ups
  4. Cultivate local talent
  5. Gender and youth mainstreaming
  6. Capacity building for rural/agripreneurs
  7. Any other relating area of critical significance