They must taste good, be nutritious and bountiful, and be environmentally friendly to grow.
For the teams in the finals of Pinduoduo’s Smart Agriculture Competition, the bar has risen to ensure that sustainability is held in equal regard as dollars and cents when it comes to developing and deploy precision agriculture technology.
The high expectations also reflect the growing stature of the competition as a platform for global talent to showcase practical solutions to agricultural challenges and promote international cooperation, according to Dr. Thomas Hansen, the Danish Attaché for Higher Education, Science and Innovation to China.
“This competition is really about unleashing ideas and potentials that can help solve major problems, and great ideas and solutions are not worth much if they’re just staying in the heads of people,” said Dr. Hansen, who is a member of the competition judging panel. “This competition has the potential for bringing some of these ideas into practical use.”
Pinduoduo, the largest agricultural platform in China, initiated the annual contest to gather the top minds in information technology and agronomy to create cost-effective one-click planting solutions for smallholder farmers. In the inaugural competition that took last year, several teams have gone on to offer their technology to working farms in China, helping smallholder farmers to raise their productivity and income.
China is stepping up efforts for agricultural modernization by helping farmers to improve production in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner through utilizing smart farming technology, while increasing demand for their products by digitally connecting them to a wider pool of consumers.
This year, a team from the University of Southern Denmark took part in the competition, which is an opportunity for the Danish agricultural community to learn more about China and contribute to its agricultural modernization drive, according to Dr. Hansen.
Dr. Hansen said that Denmark, with a population of 5.8 million, can produce enough food for 15 million people thanks to factors including well-educated farmers, a strong tradition for public-private university partnerships, and well-established cooperatives that own some of the country’s best food brands. Its food sector has set out an ambitious vision to become climate neutral by 2050 with the same level of food production or higher.
There are opportunities for the two countries to collaborate and share their experiences given the common challenges faced in balancing the need to reduce emissions from agriculture and boosting productivity and sustainability, he said.
“We already have a range of technologies that are in practice,” he said. “It would be very interesting to see them rolled out in China, because this will reduce the cost of the technologies and make them more widely available across the world, as what we’re dealing with here is a global issue.”
Since November 2020, Pinduoduo and the Royal Danish Consulate General (The Trade Council) have collaborated to bring more Danish food and agricultural products to Chinese consumers. The collaboration has extended into other projects in the area of agriculture and most recently the Smart Agriculture Competition.
“The collaboration in the field of agriculture is a natural extension of our commercial BTC collaboration with Pinduoduo. It allows us to create large-scale opportunities for Danish startup and established agri technology in China,” said Jesper Halle, Commercial Consul, Royal Danish Consulate General in Shanghai.
Founded in 2015, Pinduoduo is unique among major consumer internet companies in China in making agriculture a strategic focus. To date, the company has connected more than 16 million farmers to its 850 million users, helping agricultural growers to widen their market and consumers to get fresher and lower-cost produce.
Pinduoduo has been promoting the use of agricultural technology to boost productivity and environmental sustainability through a series of initiatives. Last month, the company announced the launch of a “10 Billion Agriculture Initiative” to galvanize the development and adoption of agricultural technology and reward agricultural sector workers.
“Agriculture is the foundation of the development of human society and the nexus of social welfare, security, health and environment sustainability, said Andre Zhu, Senior Vice President at Pinduoduo, “As China’s largest platform for agriculture, we want to groom more young talent to support agricultural modernization and help better the livelihoods of farmers while serving the interests of our users at the same time.”