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Chinese farmers use AI tech to boost harvest

BY :Xinhua

UPDATED :2024-07-05

At a smart manufacturing center in South China's Guangdong, as bunches of grapes moved along the conveyor belt, the sizes and sugar contents of each grape were displayed on a screen.

This method contrasts with traditional practices where grapes are squeezed to extract juice for sugar content measurement and grape sizes are manually assessed for grading purposes to determine pricing.

According to Ye Shenglang, a grape farmer, grape grading heavily relies on experienced workers, who are scarce during peak production seasons. Therefore, both growers and dealers are enthusiastic about technologies that could transform the industry.

"With the help of hyperspectral sensing and artificial intelligence (AI), we can now aid dealers in swiftly grading grapes without causing damage or requiring physical contact with the grapes," said Liu Yisen, associate researcher at the Institute of Intelligent Manufacturing at the Guangdong Academy of Sciences.

Liu explained that grapes, being produced in bunches, create a more complex reflection of light compared to other fruits, presenting challenges for testing. However, with the assistance of AI, his team has developed a data model capable of effectively and efficiently assessing grapes.

The grapes cultivated by Ye belong to the Shine Muscat variety, which has seen significant popularity in the Chinese market in recent years.

Initially, Shine Muscat grapes had higher sugar content; however, as more farmers started growing this grape, new varieties emerged that looked good but tasted bad, leading to unstable quality and driving prices down.

Ye said that he plans to use AI technology in the next production season to help boost his income.

Guangdong, one of China's most economically developed provinces and the most populous, recorded a GDP of 13.57 trillion yuan (about US$ 1.9 trillion) in 2023, with the permanent population reaching 127 million, according to official data.

"Guangdong's modernization heavily relies on the development of agriculture, which is also the foundation of the region's urbanization and industrialization," said Hu Jing, director of the research center for agriculture and urbanization at South China Normal University.

At a vegetable plantation hub in Huadu district, located in the provincial capital Guangzhou, a mechanical arm was seen planting two dozen lettuce seedlings onto a seedling bed within seconds before transporting them into a greenhouse. At the other end of the transport line, ripe vegetables freshly picked from the greenhouse awaited packaging.

The plantation features multiple advanced technologies, including automatic seeding, intelligent germination acceleration and intelligent harvesting, which boost the output to an annual yield of 20 tonnes per mu (about 0.07 hectares).

"These innovative technologies save approximately 40 percent of land, 80 percent of water and 90 percent of labor costs compared to traditional methods," said Liu Huanhuan, who works at the plantation hub.

Sensors placed around the field collect data on humidity, temperature, barometric pressure and light levels, while integrated systems for water and fertilizer are computer-managed, enabling year-round lettuce cultivation.

"Advanced technologies like AI can help bridge the gap between cities and rural areas, accelerating common prosperity and contributing to the goal of revitalizing rural areas," Hu said.

Cover photo: China Daily

Editor: Annie