Interview: Big opportunity to develop agriculture technology in China, says industry expert

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-23 15:17:35|Editor: Yamei
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SAN FRANCISCO, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Agriculture technology is the biggest opportunity left in the world and China has a great potential to drive agri-tech innovation and adoption, an industry expert in California has said.

"Asia has the largest population increase in the world, which drives innovation. So, I think that there's more opportunity in Asia, particularly China, in the next 10 years," said Aaron Magenheim, founder of AgTech Insight, a Salinas-based agricultural and tech consulting firm, in a recent interview.

The consultancy is currently tracking 3,000 digital agriculture companies around the world to make an impact on the world's food supply. It has been building relationships and networks in China for five years.

Digitalizing the industry -- collecting farms' information and analyzing the information with machine learning technology -- is the trend that "we're seeing and that is starting to be adopted," said Magenheim.

China has been actively pushing forward artificial intelligence (AI) in the past years. The country has set the goal of making AI a major new growth engine by 2020 and becoming a major center in AI innovation by 2030.

With the help of AI, farmers are able to be "smarter and proactive" about their crops by determining predictably what needs to be done without having to go out into the field, he said.

"Machine learning will help us know what we've done and how to do it better and share information on what's working and what's not," he said.

"For example, a farmer can take a picture of a problem of the crop and then load up the picture on a platform, which delivers a response instantly based off the vast pictures that it has analyzed," he said.

This is an example of the technologies that the United States and China can collaborate on to help improve farmers' practice and meet the world's food needs in the next decades, said Magenheim.

A challenge that most Asian countries face in adopting such technologies is the small size of farmlands.

"In most Asian countries, between 40 percent and 70 percent of their population are involved in agriculture; in the U.S., less than 2 percent of our population is involved in agriculture," Magenheim said. "So when you look at such a wide population and small farms, you know there are different needs."

"Trading apps -- both to sell farm products and to buy fertilizers and other inputs -- are the biggest trend in Asia that we're seeing right now," he said.

Such apps can help a small-sized farm owner sell his produce to a restaurant, to a market or to a central location rather than just the local people that come by, he said.

The "awesome thing" with that is if a lot of small farmers get to use the app, they will be able to understand the market prices better, he added.

Magenheim said he has had quite a number of meetings with government officials at different levels in China and that they recognized agri-tech as "a big priority" in order to implement better practices and build an ecosystem.