In 2018, Xu Nanping, vice minister of science and technology, stated: "The future of China's agriculture sector lies in agricultural modernisation, and the key to advancing agricultural modernisation lies in the development of technology."
China is investing in the future of farming in order to increase crop yields and improve its livestock management with the aim of reducing its level of hungry citizens. It is one of the world’s largest populated countries and 134 million people are reported to have insufficient access to food. It is hoped that substantially upgrading the country’s agricultural technologies and supply chains will help to tackle this crisis.
Technologists working across the Chinese agricultural spectrum are focused on creating solutions to abolish hunger. Farming drones are becoming more commonplace for spraying substances on to fields, due to their precision and efficiency in comparison to tractors or manual spraying.
Insufficient water resources is a significant problem for agriculture in many areas, but irrigation tubes are being used to enable pumped or pressurised water to be released slowly and conserve water by reducing evaporation and deep drainage. ‘Fertigation’ – where drip systems mix liquid fertilizer with the irrigation water – is now a commonly used method, saving on labour costs, water and fertiliser.
Urban agriculture has increased as a means of improving food security levels. San Yuan Farm is a state-owned urban farm belonging to the Beijing Agricultural Group Co. Ltd. It uses modern agricultural technologies such as aquaponics, portable balcony agriculture and paper agriculture. Balcony gardening is considered by many to be an effective solution to China’s strict land use policy. It enables agriculture to happen at home, and isn’t affected by the increasing demand for urban farming land, or the limited amount of arable land available in urban areas. The new Sunqiao Urban Agricultural District in Shanghai will also use aquaponics - the ecosystem that combines conventional aquaculture and hydroponics - to grow plants vertically without soil, using minerals, LED lights and fish fertiliser.
China is concerned about a shortage of soybeans, which has been partly affected by China-US trade issues. Due to the increasing demand for soybeans for human consumption and farming fodder, the country now has a heavy reliance on international imports. Currently, over 85% of soybeans in the Chinese market come from outside the country, with around one third of those imports previously coming from the US. Entrepreneurs, technologists and university experts have all been researching possible alternatives to alleviate the shortfall. Beijing Youzhili Agricultural Technology Company believes it has created an innovative solution. Its owner Wang Sanxiu has developed tiger nut milk from a crop of Cyperus esculentus. The plant can also create tiger nut oil as well as livestock fodder. Whilst various governmental plans are being implemented to regenerate home grown soybeans, the tiger nut is providing a credible alternative.
The Chinese government is also investing in educating the agricultural sector on how it can produce stronger yields by updating its processes. An International Centre of Excellence for Agriculture Innovation and Rural Development is being established in Beijing. It will provide training around agricultural innovation and rural revitalisation, and promote ‘greater investment in rural areas in order to fast-track the achievement of Zero Hunger.’
None of these innovations on their own have the ability to solve China’s burgeoning food supply crisis, but the aggregated gains of all of these projects, if integrated correctly could make a significant impact. Continued government investement and co-ordination is needed if China is to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger.
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