Smart farmers

Background last update:15 Apr 2020

How agtech helps China prepare for spring planting during Coronavirus outbreak

While China slowly recovers from the coronavirus outbreak, agtech helps farmers prepare for spring planting.

The Covid-19 or coronavirus outbreak has led to an economical standstill worldwide. Agriculture is no exception. China’s agricultural industry is suffering from a lack of free flow of labour and raw materials due to restrictions imposed after the outbreak of the coronavirus. While the country is getting ready for the planting season, labour and fertiliser are scarce.

Impact of coronavirus on the agricultural chain

For the upstream suppliers of agricultural inputs in China, usually, a market shortage occurs during the spring planting preparation stage. This year, the shutdown of businesses and traffic obstructions as a response to the coronavirus outbreak has led to a stagnation of the agricultural infrastucture system.

Green channel for spring planting

China recently opened a so-called green channel for spring planting, through which businesses and farmers can be supplied with the necessary inputs. For farmers in the northern parts of China, spring planting is earlier than usual and overlaps with the epidemic cycle, so it is necessary to mobilise government and industry resources to ensure spring planting production.

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Farmers planting peanuts in a field in Liaocheng in China's eastern Shandong province. - Photo: AFP
Farmers planting peanuts in a field in Liaocheng in China's eastern Shandong province. - Photo: AFP

In this critical period, large enterprises show more advantages because their stock or raw material reserves are relatively large. Some specialised export enterprises now even directly sell their products to the domestic market in the current situation, filling the domestic demand gap. And innovative enterprises take advantage of new ways to obtain customers easier and faster to get orders, hence to achieve a positive market effect in a short time.

Free drones

China’s agtech firms are doing their best to ensure spring planting. One example is MCFLY, a company specialised in remote sensing, articial intelligence, crop protection and big data. The company operates so-called plant protection service centers in more than 30 counties and towns across China. These service centers are equipped with drones and agricultural materials in warehouses. Right now, MCFLY provides free UAVs and drone operators for all villages and towns to help rural areas with disinfection operations and aerial patrols.

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MCFLY provides free UAVs and drone operators for all villages and towns to help rural areas with disinfection operations and aerial patrols. - Photo: MCFLY
MCFLY provides free UAVs and drone operators for all villages and towns to help rural areas with disinfection operations and aerial patrols. - Photo: MCFLY

Another company, Jiahe Info, launched the “Jiahe Spring Planting Preparation Decision Platform”. Using remote sensing technology, the platform gathers and analyses data for Chinese farmers and provides them with the necessary data in order for farmers to commence spring planting as soon as possible and provides farmers with the right crop protection tools.

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The Jiahe Spring Planting Preparation Decision Platform uses remote sensing technology, the platform gathers and analyses data for Chinese farmers. - Photo: Jiahe Info
The Jiahe Spring Planting Preparation Decision Platform uses remote sensing technology, the platform gathers and analyses data for Chinese farmers. - Photo: Jiahe Info

Free online services for farmers

Shuxitech, together with several ag-tech leading enterprises launched the “Spring Planting Non-profit Alliance for Resisting COVID-19”. It provides farmers with free services including agricultural big data at field level, recommendations, notifications, and the ability to rent machinery online.

The non-profit alliance also provides online financial matching for agricultural resources and machinery, agricultural risk coverage, and real-time trading information services through satellite positioning, remote sensing, big data, and cloud computing technology. These services enable farmers to reduce face to face contact, while preparing for spring planting.

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The “Spring Planting Non-profit Alliance for Resisting COVID-19" provides services including agricultural big data at  field level to farmers. - Photo: Shuxitech
The “Spring Planting Non-profit Alliance for Resisting COVID-19" provides services including agricultural big data at field level to farmers. - Photo: Shuxitech

Why agtech can help us survive crises

In general, digital and smart agriculture is the future trend for China. Digital agriculture, such as WeChat mini-programs (sub-applications of the WeChat app, a Chinese social media app that can be seen as combination of Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, but with which users can also buy products online or even order a taxi) play a bigger role during the COVID-19 outbreaks than expected. For instance, farmers in villages that are closed off from the outside world can use WeChat to view online samples – also known as cloud samples – of agricultural products, and place orders.

The importance of these digital tools will only increase in the aftermath of the coronovirus outbreak. Labour and inputs will remain scarce as the agricultural infrastructure suffers from all the restrictions imposed. Agtech can help Chinese farmers overcome these problems, as is being proven now. And with the accelerated adoption af agtech, Chinese farmers will be more resilient to future crises.

Also read: XAG resumes drone production as China recovers from Corona outbreak

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