Speeding up and increasing innovation in agriculture can trigger the changes needed to meet the challenges of feeding a growing population, climate change and achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals, according to FAO’s representative to China.
The Smart Agriculture Competition co-organized by Pinduoduo is an example of a “timely” initiative to promote smart agriculture, which can substantially contribute to balancing the global carbon cycle and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said Carlos Watson, FAO Representative to China and DPR Korea in a speech delivered to the competition. These efforts help the world to adapt and build resilience to climate change, as well as transform toward sustainable agriculture, he added.
“This Smart Agriculture Competition is timely,” said Watson, “It provides a useful platform for youth to bring together leading scientists and farmers to cope with the challenges, adopting innovative technologies, and form a set of practical, cost-saving and efficiency-enhancing technology models and solutions for smallholder farmers.”
Deploying technology to improve sustainability is one of the key aims of the competition, which is co-organized by Pinduoduo, China Agricultural University and Zhejiang University, with the technical support of the FAO and Wageningen University & Research.
This year, global teams will be competing over six months to remotely grow tomatoes, using a combination of advanced algorithms and sensor technology. The objective is to derive the most efficient and environmentally sustainable techniques to grow tomatoes with high yield and quality. In last year’s inaugural competition, the four technology teams produced 196% more fruit by weight on average compared with experienced farmers.
“Your dedication to constantly innovating technology is key to driving the transformation we need in food systems, rural economies, communities and natural resource management,” said Watson. “Your pioneering and innovative work in promoting smart agriculture will be the catalyst for our sustainable agriculture transformation.”
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 year, FAO co-organized the Global AgriInno Challenge 2020 in partnership with Zhejiang University with support from Pinduoduo, aiming at engaging and empowering the young agriculture entrepreneurs and innovators to tackle the challenges under the sustainable agriculture transformation.
Last month, Pinduoduo announced the launch of a “10 Billion Agriculture Initiative” to galvanize the development and adoption of agricultural technology and reward agricultural sector workers. The initiative will adopt a long-term focus on capacity building for technology and human capital for agriculture, instead of focusing on profit and commercial returns.
“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 contribute more to promote environmentally sustainable practices and invest in the agri-food system.”