Pinduoduo’s Smart Agriculture Competition acts as bridge connecting academia, technology sector and growers

Barbie Espinol

Zhu Qingzhen was 24 when he left his occupation at an vehicle style company to pursue a doctorate in agricultural engineering, at a time when agriculture was nonetheless comparatively untouched by the waves of technological transformation sweeping other industries.

“Everyone faces the issue in their youth of what kind of man or woman they want to turn into,” mentioned Zhu, now 32 and a member of Horti-AI, a staff using element in Pinduoduo’s annual Clever Agriculture Competition. “For me, the solution arrived from being familiar with the condition of progress of agricultural technological know-how equipment. I made a decision again then that I required to make my profession in agriculture.”

Now instructing and conducting analysis at Jiangsu University’s Agricultural Engineering Higher education, Zhu was psyched to discover about the Pinduoduo competitors, a greenhouse tomato-rising contest made to problem taking part teams to undertake a multidisciplinary solution in making price tag-helpful and straightforward-to-use technological know-how that can increase profit and productiveness while lessening the environmental footprint of agriculture.

Horti-AI is a person of 4 groups that experienced just completed the six-month obstacle, which saw agricultural scientists, information scientists and growers do the job collectively to cultivate tomatoes in sensible greenhouses in Yunnan. The function was done largely remotely, controlling and altering variables like temperature, humidity and nutrient mix by means of a clever greenhouse administration procedure. Normal Friday evening online video conferences were held to examine notes and discuss technique.

“Smart farming will be part of the transformative alternative as our agricultural technologies is fast evolving to a new paradigm – Agriculture 4., which integrates a sequence of innovations to produce agricultural items with higher effectiveness,” said Carlos Watson, FAO consultant to China. “I am quite pleased to see that the technical team has utilized agriculture 4.-linked systems such as data assessment, smart administration and handle cloud system, in tomato planting, which not only improves generate, but also improves nourishment, as effectively as the dwelling standards and capabilities of disadvantaged farmers.”

The annual event is organized by Pinduoduo with cooperation from China Agricultural College and Zhejiang University, and specialized assistance from the UN’s Food stuff and Agriculture Group and Netherlands-centered Wageningen University & Analysis.

The opposition is getting a status as a system the place young talents in the field of agricultural scientific investigate can properly comprehend the wants of smallholder famers and produce focused merchandise, according to He Yong, Dean of the Faculty of Biosystems Engineering and Food stuff Science at Zhejiang College.

The opposition has acted as a “bridge connecting agricultural researchers, electronic technology specialists and farmers” and “promoted mutual comprehending involving builders and customers of technological know-how, and efficiently elevated the adoption of new technologies,” He explained.

Systems developed all through the to start with Wise Agriculture Competitors is at present in use in many big strawberry-developing locations in China to deal with growing ailments in greenhouses. Several of the participating groups in this year’s competitiveness have designs to launch pilot initiatives to test their technological innovation on a much larger scale.

For Horti-AI, one particular vital difficulty to conquer was how to use technology to replicate the decades of encounter that veteran growers have accumulated but are not able to transfer to many others at scale. Utilizing laptop or computer eyesight know-how and equipment discovering, the team was ready to map the understanding foundation and make an automatic method for recognizing how very well the tomatoes are expanding. An added gain of this technological innovation is that the product turns into extra exact in excess of time as it “learns” from a lot more facts.

This is borne out in the outcomes. In contrast with traditional soil cultivation of cherry tomatoes, the good greenhouse administration design noticeably boosted profitability and yield , according to an assessment by the crew.

“Through this level of competition, we can plainly see that the reduced-charge software of agricultural systems these types of as sensors, algorithms, and supplementary mild can enormously increase the stage of agricultural manufacturing and management, successfully strengthen the produce and good quality of agricultural products, and at the same time promote environmental protection and sustainability,” said Andre Zhu, Senior Vice President at Pinduoduo. “We firmly consider that the iteration and marketing of these systems can deliver imaginative extra worth to agricultural merchandise, thereby making a lot more profits for substantial-scale agricultural growers.”

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