Smart agriculture empowers vegetable growers in east China

(Xinhua) 13:37, May 11, 2024

NANCHANG, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Peng Jiangbo's morning routine might come as a surprise. Rather than beginning his day out in the field digging in the dirt, this farmer sits in front of a screen and crunches numbers.

Thanks to sensors "planted" in the field that measure temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide concentration, Peng uses real-time data to help manage his large-scale vegetable farm in Guanqiao Village of Chongren County, east China's Jiangxi Province.

Figures can help farmers swiftly adapt their growing plans, Peng said. "In the past, we relied heavily on experience to cultivate high-quality vegetables. Over recent years, planting technologies have begun to play a significant role. Now digital technology has emerged as another dominant factor," he said.

Over the past several years, China has accelerated the development of smart agriculture, building digital villages and narrowing the "digital gap" between urban and rural areas, which has helped enhance both production efficiency and farmers' income.

Chongren has made great efforts in this endeavor. Leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as 5G, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and blockchain, the county, which counts vegetable growing as a pillar industry, has established digital platforms in over 20 vegetable bases to facilitate greenhouse production and vegetable sales.

The smart monitoring system in Peng's greenhouse has been a great help. Earlier this year, during a critical growth stage for his sponge gourd crop, Peng became concerned when both the weather forecast and the figures on the screen indicated an impending cold snap.

"I had already signed contracts to sell those sponge gourds. If they had been damaged by the cold snap, I could have suffered huge losses," recalled Peng.

He quickly turned on the heater in the greenhouse and made sure the insulating layer was sealed. As the temperature gradually climbed up, he breathed a sigh of relief.

With just a few taps on his mobile phone, Peng can effortlessly manage the sunproof net, water curtain and ventilation system of the greenhouse from anywhere. The intelligent monitoring system also sends alerts promptly when anomalies are detected in data analysis.

"In the past, anyone who could manage a field of roughly 50 mu (about 3.33 hectares) well could be labeled a skilled cultivator. Now, a plot ten times that size requires just one or two individuals for maintenance," added Peng.

Smart agriculture is transforming an increasing number of growers in Chongren into "new farmers" that wield advanced technological tools.

Peng Donghua, who has grown white gourds for over 20 years in Heshang Town, is a confident user of the digital platform, which offers a wide range of information such as wholesale prices, regional price differentials and price index trends. Based on this data, growers can make informed decisions regarding crop varieties and optimal selling timing.

Last year, he accurately predicted a wave of fluctuations in white gourd prices and adjusted the seedling time accordingly, advancing it by a month. As a result, the gourds were sold at their peak price in late June.

If vegetables become "sick," growers can always seek help via the digital platform and its pool of agricultural experts. Last year, Shao Nianping, a grower from Xiawu Village in Chongren, reached out to an expert from the Jiangxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences online, as leaves on the cauliflowers planted by a fellow grower in his cooperative had faded and there were visible cracks in the stalks. The expert agreed to visit the field in person to assess the situation.

The cause of the "disease," the expert determined, was the fertilizer. The grower tended to the field according to a "prescription" from the expert, the cauliflowers then returned to normal within about five days.

According to the bureau of agriculture and rural affairs of Chongren, in 2023, the county's sowing area for vegetables reached 204,000 mu, with a total vegetable production of 410,000 tonnes. The total production value reached 1.02 billion yuan (about 143.64 million U.S. dollars), increasing 36 percent year-on-year.

"Chongren will continue to deepen the implementation of smart agriculture construction projects, ensuring 'new farmers' a promising career path," said Xiao Zhihua, chief of the county's bureau of agriculture and rural affairs.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Zhong Wenxing)


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