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Chinese agriculture technology startup empowers smart agriculture with “ABC” technologies

By Miao Wanyi (People's Daily Overseas New Media)    15:18, April 08, 2019

Photo courtesy of McFly

Agriculture in China no longer means sickle and pickaxe. Now it is “ABC” technology: A for AI, B for big data, and C for cloud computing, which is reshaping the way the nation does agriculture.

ABC technologies made a splash after the rural revitalization strategy was set as a key plank of the nation’s economic modernization push in 2018.

This year, smart agriculture outperformed other items at the press conference of priorities for agricultural development on Feb. 20, a day after “Rain Water,” the second solar term in the Chinese lunar calendar, indicating the time for early spring planting in southern China.

Smart agriculture, to some, means being precise, as the nation’s agricultural production has been haunted by pesticide overuse and residue for ages.

“China feeds 22% of the world’s population with 8% of the world’s arable land, but also uses 47% of the world’s pesticides, which looms large on Chinese agricultural development. It is time to seriously reconsider the overuse of pesticide,” said Kang Le, dean of the Beijing Institute of Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, at a round table of the Third Understanding China Conference held in Beijing in December 2018.

Founded in 2016, McFly, a Chinese agriculture technology startup, completed series A funding of over a 100 million yuan on Mar. 27, marking the latest injection to the company’s smart solution to tackle the pesticide issue.

The company provides precise disease monitoring and pesticide spray services for farmers to better protect crop health and control pest infestation in a targeted way. With hyperspectral remote sensing technology, data collected by monitoring drones is be uploaded to Baidu Cloud, a cloud platform developed by China’s tech giant Baidu Inc., where a solution is simultaneously generated for adjusting the speed of spray and amount of pesticide via drone, which can cut chemical usage in field in half.

Farmers and agricultural entities from Hubei, Jiangsu, and Liaoning provinces have applied the technology over their land of more than 240 million mu, and an average 80% repurchase rate is solid evidence that pesticide control has gained the attention of people working in the modern agricultural industry.

“China’s agricultural production still depends on agricultural chemistry, but the low penetration rate of technology in rural areas is stifling agricultural modernization, so it stands to reason that an increasing number of Chinese scientists will go out of the ivory tower and search for solutions in the field. We are scientists who sow in the cloud and walk barefoot on the ground,” Gong Huaze, CEO of McFly, told People’s Daily Overseas Social Media, without any mince in his words on the nation’s lack of application scenarios in the agricultural industry.

The time of acting based on weather conditions and the experience of famers is long gone. Ag-tech companies not only learn from nature, but from the internet. An array of mature operation models on the internet have been applied to agricultural innovation, and pragmatic solutions have been found to adapt to diverse agricultural scenarios, forming a strong bond between farmers and cutting-edge technologies.

Last April Fool’s Day, Chinese tech giant Tencent launched an AI goose farm project, which was not a practical joke. In fact, Tencent farmers monitor the living condition of poultry with facial recognition technology.

The agricultural cycle is a stable yet slow form of return on investment. Chinese investors still have faith in the rural revitalization strategy, as the Chinese government has spared no effort in vitalizing the agricultural market via the implementation of ABC technologies.

“China has suffered from pesticide residue for years, especially in food security matters. McFly discovered a new path to address the pain point and act as a responsible player to deeply combine technology with an online way of thinking. We are looking forward to seeing more competitive performers in the agricultural sector,” said Zhang Chi, investor of Riverhill Fund, who just helped McFly with the series A funding.

Modern farmers has cottoned on the implication of ecological farming as they benefit from ecological-friendly agricultural products, and it is more other than being lucrative.

For example, China’s Peking University established the modern agricultural college in December 2017 to better serve China’s smart agriculture. Dubbed “gold with a coupon,” modern agriculture with ABC technologies are able to personally train farmers with a passion for agriculture, but also data analysts with an in-depth knowledge of market chains and price volatility.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Jiang Jie, Bianji)

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