SHANGHAI, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Despite the chilly weather, workers on China's third-largest island, Chongming Island, are busy installing equipment for a large flower project with an investment of over 220 million yuan (about 32 million U.S. dollars).
"The automatic seedling system will be ready before the Chinese Lunar New Year and the whole production line is expected to be operational in April," said Jiang Wu, technical director of Shanghai Yuanyi Seedling Co., Ltd. -- the operator of the project.
Mainly supported by Dutch technology, the project also uses equipment and technology from Italy, Denmark and Japan.
Fabio Camisa, project manager of the Italian equipment manufacturer Da Ros, expected the production site in Chongming to be a "showcase" for his company. "We earn good market share globally. We hope the project in Chongming can further increase our exposure in the Chinese market," said Camisa.
Sitting at the mouth of the Yangtze River, Chongming Island's traditional economic engine was fishing, as well as rice and citrus planting.
As the country shifts toward a greener pattern of development, the island, an important part of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, echoed the national call and found new wealth in flowers.
The island has developed over 10,000 hectares of land for the plantation industry over the past two years, aiming to build itself into a "flower island."
The total cultivated area of flowers and plants is expected to reach over 6,600 hectares by 2021 when the island will hold the 10th China Flower Expo -- a national event in the floral industry established in 1987. By then, the annual sales of flowers and plants of the island are projected to exceed 1 billion yuan.
Many flower companies have already been lured to invest in Chongming by its sound natural environment. They, in return, attach equal importance to preserve local ecology.
"We recycle the rain and river water to irrigate the plants and use environmentally friendly materials in production and delivery, making sure it's a virtuous circle," said Jiang.
Aiming at forging a "world-level ecological island," Chongming has taken a slew of measures to enhance environmental protection.
According to a development plan, all sewage in rural areas should be recycled on the island by 2020, and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture is strictly limited.
In addition to Chongming's advantaged natural resources, Shanghai's role as a major flower trading center also makes Chongming shine.
Chongming is only about 45 km from downtown Shanghai and is connected with Shanghai and nearby Jiangsu Province by bridges and tunnels. It can also conveniently reach out to East Asian countries by air and sea.
According to the China Flower Association, China is now the world's biggest flower producer and a major flower consumer and trader.
A number of international players are therefore speeding up their footprints in the country. On Chongming Island alone, about 10 foreign-funded projects are under discussion or construction.
W.F. Leenen, a famous floriculture company in the Netherlands, and Cathay Tulip Association are partnering with Chongming for possible collaboration.
Gerard Lentjes, chairman of Dutch leading flower breeding company Armada, said the company has a "deep interest" in building a Dutch floriculture research and development center on Chongming.
"Armada is willing to cooperate with Chongming in areas such as flower breeding and patent protection to tailor flower seedlings suitable for the Chinese market," said Lentjes.