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Technology adds fresh innovation to agriculture

Ding Yining
Digital infrastructure and logistics upgrades are helping Chongming farmers manage their crops and get their produce to market more efficiently.
Ding Yining

China's e-commerce giants are using data capabilities and supply chain upgrades to help boost development of the agricultural sector.

In Shanghai's Chongming District, Alibaba and government authorities have signed a partnership to help promote the island’s farm products using digital infrastructure.

Sensors and smart screens have been set up at pear farms in Chongming. Drones spray pesticides on orchards, and underground sensors send back soil analysis so that nutritional supplements can be added when needed.

Strict standards govern the size of pears and humidity control during transport. The produce goes directly to the shelves of Freshippo, Alibaba’s grocery chain.

Similar farms and criteria will be set up in Pudong New District and Qingpu District in the near future.

"We hope to lay the framework for modern agricultural and a supply chain that produces top-quality fruit and appropriate compensation for farmers," said Hou Yi, chairman of Freshippo and head of Alibaba's digital agricultural unit.

The e-commerce giant hopes to add several dedicated warehouse and dispatch centers close to produce-growing areas to provide faster shipment.

Disinfecting and sorting at dispatch sites will utilize automated procedures.

Three dedicated warehouses close to the origin of produce are expected to be established by the end of this year in the cities of Xi'an, Chengdu and Zibo as part of a nationwide supply chain.

A four-month competition was launched by Pinduoduo and China Agricultural University this month to allow coders and data scientists to work on strawberry-growing solutions and to promote smart solutions to serve local fruit-growing demand.

Four teams which won a preliminary contest last month will compare their final results with four teams of farmers from Jiangsu, Liaoning and Anhui provinces.

A jury consisting of eight members will select the best solutions, which will be provided to local farm growers in Fumin County, Yunnan Province, to help them enhance strawberry output and improve quality.

Multi-disciplinary teams consisting of data scientists, electrical engineers and horticulturalists are using Internet of Things facilities, data models and algorithms to optimize plant-growing models.

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