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In orange grove, it's technique over muscle

By Cheng Si | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-19 09:12
Agricultural technicians work at a orange farm in Laibin, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. [Provided to China Daily]

Modern technology is breathing new life into the traditional, labor-intensive agriculture in Laibin, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, with automation - particularly artificial intelligence - helping raise efficiency and bringing economic benefits.

Wei Huating, 24, a worker in charge of watering and fertilization at Laibin Haisheng Agriculture, is using a mobile app to fertilize trees growing Orri mandarin oranges, introduced from Israel.

"The high-tech application greatly improves efficiency," she said. "It takes about five days to fertilize the orange grove, which covers an area of 2.3 million square meters, by hand, but only three days with advanced technology."

The company, which was founded in January 2016 in Laibin, is a branch of Shaanxi-based China Haisheng Fresh Fruit Juice, the country's largest fruit and juice supplier by sales.

Shi Jianfeng, the company's deputy general manager, said the orange grove was built using standards set by Globe GAP, a global authority in agricultural practices, and a state-of-the-art irrigation system, introduced from Israel, had been installed.

"The modern system helps save 70 percent of the water and 50 percent of the fertilizer compared with traditional watering methods," Shi said. "The fruit trees can bear fruit after two and a half years, but take more than three years with old-fashioned planting methods."

The company also made a connection with Alibaba Cloud Computing in April to help supervise agricultural activities - for example, fertilizing and improving pest control through advanced technologies including drones and remote-sensing technologies.

The orange grove is expected to harvest its first crop - an estimated 1,500 metric tons worth 15 million yuan ($2.16 million) - early next year.

Shi said the company also gives lectures to farmers to help them modernize their planting and cultivation methods so they are more ecologically friendly.

"We pay 1,200 yuan per mu (about 670 sq m) to farmers to rent their land, and offer them jobs if they want to join us," Shi said. "Farmers working at our base can earn about 2,000 yuan per month, or about 100 yuan per day helping us harvest fruit."

Shi said that another base of about 4 million sq m is being created with the local government.

Laibin, in central Guangxi, was recognized as the region's first modern agricultural park last year, when fruit production reached 747,000 tons, a year-on-year increase of 35.4 percent.

"My parents once strongly opposed my choice to farm after graduating from Guangxi Vocational and Technical College of Agriculture last year," Wei, the watering and fertilization worker, said.

"But I want to show them that modern agriculture requires technique rather than physical strength."

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