China’s High Tech Keeps Agricultural Sector Running Amid Epidemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a huge impact on the global economy, but China’s Modern technology has helped to ensure that agricultural production continues amid the pneumonia outbreak. The agriculture sector delivered a robust performance in the first quarter of 2020, which analysts say is the foundation of the economic stability and enabled the country to cope with the epidemic headwinds.

In Yutian county, Tangshan city of north China’s Hebei province, local agricultural cooperatives have introduced an application that allows farmers to buy services such as cultivation and management. They can also purchase agricultural supplies such as pesticides and fertilizers at low prices and have them delivered directly to farms. Heilongjiang province in northeast China has invited 17 experts and 480 scientists to teach farmers agricultural skills on growing soybean, rice, corn and so on via live broadcasts.

Automatic equipment is used in seed germination farms mitigated the lack of labor power due to the COVID-19. Photo by Gu Zhi.

Intelligent agricultural machinery, such as automatic fertilizer distributors and unmanned agricultural vehicles, has ensured the continuation of agricultural production amid the epidemic. In Nanning, capital city of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, unmanned agricultural vehicles helped local farmers plough and sow seeds on about 6.7 square kilometers of sugarcane land in eight days.

Modern technology such as the Internet of Things and big data have also promoted intelligent agriculture. The Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, has developed a smart management system that can dynamically monitor soil, water and crop growth in fields and then send the information to farmers on their mobile phones.

"The trend of going digital in the agricultural sector and among relevant firms will continue even after the outbreak, and it will become an indispensable part of the industry,"

said Shen Bing, chief information officer of the agricultural branch of Sinochem, China’s leading operator of fertilizer

“The trend of going digital in the agricultural sector and among relevant firms will continue even after the outbreak, and it will become an indispensable part of the industry,” said Shen Bing, chief information officer of the agricultural branch of Sinochem, China’s leading operator of fertilizer, seeds and agrochemicals. Fifty-four counties in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have joined the live sales hosted by government officials and attracted over 30 million viewers in early April, according to the regional commerce department.

In the first quarter of 2020, China recorded a 3.5 percent year-on-year increase in the added value of the planting industry, said Wei Baigang, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. The stable performance of the agricultural sector has provided strong support for China’s epidemic control and overall development, Wei said, pledging efforts to ensure the country’s annual grain output reaches over 650 billion kg.

“China is at the leading edge of agritech adoption and will surpass the US and other long-standing ‘developed’ agricultural markets in the next decade. They don’t have a mess of old infrastructure as well as historic – and often incorrect – data that we are building from in the US and Europe,”

Aaron Magenheim, Founder and CEO of agritech consultancy Ag Tech Insight, has revealed

“China is at the leading edge of agritech adoption and will surpass the US and other long-standing ‘developed’ agricultural markets in the next decade. They don’t have a mess of old infrastructure as well as historic – and often incorrect – data that we are building from in the US and Europe,” Aaron Magenheim, Founder and CEO of agritech consultancy Ag Tech Insight, tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “They are rolling out 5G faster and understand the business value of the technology. They can then relate that directly to their output much better when they can implement best practices from the start, if they take the time to build the strategy,” he explains.

News that the Chinese government is seeking to spearhead a new era of digital agriculture comes just as the country is gripped by an outbreak of the new coronavirus. In other notable developments, China has recently signed a “historic and enforceable” agreement with the US on a “Phase One” interim trade deal that ostensibly would roll back tariffs and re-open the US market for Chinese agriculture.

Visitors look at a smart agricultural irrigation system based on the Internet of Things (IoT) technology at an exhibition of high technologies and equipment

“I’m not convinced that the trade deal will have much impact on China’s progress, I think its become obvious to China they need to concentrate on improving their internal production. Regardless of trade and political, most US based startups and investors don’t want to go to China mostly due to the worry of the tech being reproduced locally,” says Magenheim.

Chinese government government released the “Digital Agriculture and Rural Area Development Plan 2019 to 2025” earlier this week. The manifesto acknowledges that overall development of digital agriculture in rural areas in China still lags behind and faces many challenges. In spite of these challenges, the ruling political party has set out a goal of digitizing the countryside and building 5G networks in these areas. The government-lead initiative establishes hard targets. By 2025, its development plan maintains that agricultural digital economy must account for 15 percent of China’s agricultural added value, and the proportion of agricultural products sold online should hit 15 percent. In addition, internet access should reach 70 percent of rural areas by this deadline.

China is looking toward a “new generation of agricultural robots” that will help track fish, diagnose diseases and help in grazing and feeding animals, among other things. The integration of AI is positioned to protect crops, generate aerial imagery and monitor yields. Meanwhile, the government sets out that agricultural machinery should “vigorously promote” China’s homegrown satellite mapping system Beidou. The plan is keen on leveraging data to tell farmers where, when and how to plant. Blockchain applications for rural finance, food safety, and supply chain transparency should also see breakthroughs.

Even though, Coronavirus is affecting in many countries, but China’s agriculture sector logged robust performance in the first quarter of the year despite the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic. That is because the stable performance of the agricultural sector has provided strong support for China’s epidemic control and overall development. Adding that the country will continue to coordinate anti-virus efforts and agricultural production and go all-out to secure a bumper harvest for this year.

China is the leader of AgriTech adoption in domestic country. Even though, Coronavirus is affected in many countries, but it does not have a negative effect to China’s agriculture sector that logged robust performance in the first quarter of the year despite the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic. That is because the stable performance of the agricultural sector has provided strong support for China’s epidemic control and overall development. The modern technology have also promoted intelligent agriculture as well as the government’s development plan of digital agriculture in rural areas. These factors are the result that China’s agricultural sector still vigorous amid Coronavirus pandemic.