President Dr Arif Alvi said on Thursday that knowledge-based agriculture is lifeline of Pakistan, which needs to be promoted to overcome environmental challenges, and address food needs, in addition to transforming the country from net food importer to net food exporting country. He was addressing the inaugural ceremony of “Natural Agri-Innovation Centre”, near Sahianwala Interchange here. The president said that human intervention changed the natural balance between population and resources. “We must improve our demography by controlling population explosion,” he stated. He said that climatic changes played havoc with Pakistan, and in particular mentioned billion tree tsunami campaign, saying that it was need of the hour to address environmental challenges. He said some countries introduced drip and sprinkle irrigation to save precious water and Pakistan could follow suit. Those countries used genetic engineering to develop high yielding, disease as well as heat-resistant species of different varieties to enhance their agriculture production. He cited that Netherlands was19 per cent smaller than Pakistan, but it became second largest food exporter of the world. “We channelize 158 million acres feet water through glaciers and rains, out of it hardly 4 million acres is required to be drained into the sea to save coastal belt from the backlash of saline sea water,” he said adding that remaining water must be stored or utilised for irrigation in addition to replenishing our underground water reservoirs. He said that hydroponic crops were successfully developed in some regions of the world. “We must utilise artificial intelligence to get maximum yield from different crops,” he suggested. President Alvi, while highlighting various aspects of agriculture, said that apart from major crops of wheat, cotton, rice and sugarcane, farmers must grow vegetables in addition to exploiting the potential of floriculture. He also stressed the need for solarization of indigenous agriculture farms and said that it could return the capital invested within a short period of two years. He said that tunnel farming over an area of one-kanal may cost only Rs 2.5 million, which could yield maximum dividends within two to three years. The president said that the youth could also avail the financing facility under Kamyab Jawan programme. He directed Provincial Agriculture Minister Hussain Jahania Gardezi to set key performing indicators and establish at least 500-600 modern agriculture farms. In this connection, academia could also be engaged on partnership basis. He said that farming community must be invited to such modern farms to witness the maximum yields, achieved by progressive farmers through the latest means of agriculture. Punjab Minister for Agriculture Hussain Jahania Gardezi welcomed President Alvi on the occasion, saying that agriculture sector needed investment to switch from traditional farming to the hi-tech agriculture. “We must promote high and low tunnels, particularly for vegetable farming, to meet our increasing needs and depleting cultivable land”. The minister stressed the need for using artificial intelligence for agriculture sector as well in order to tackle the multiple challenges of climatic change and food shortage. Malik Amin Aslam Khan, former minister for environmental changes, identified the perils of environmental changes and said that Pakistan was listed among top three countries which were vulnerable to big environmental changes. “We could overcome emerging challenges of climate change through reliance on smart agriculture.” He also appreciated adoption and localization of the latest technology by Natural Farms. Earlier, Waseem Afzal, chairman Naturals Farms, welcomed the guests and introduced the latest Dutch model technology used in this farm sprawling over 2.5 acres of land.