Across China: Digital technology sweetens lychee business in south China
NANNING, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Chen Shiquan, a farmer in his 50s, sits in the shade at a lychee orchard in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, meticulously watering and fertilizing lychee trees using a mobile phone app.
Thanks to the digital technology, farmers no longer have to solely rely on manual work for fruit cultivation. Agricultural facilities in the orchard are managed by an intelligent farming system, enabling even elderly farmers like Chen to operate the tools through this smartphone app.
Chen hails from Lingshan County in Guangxi, which is home to the finest lychee varieties in China. There, he has been engaged in lychee cultivation for almost three decades.
"The intelligent agricultural system relieves farmers of laborious tasks, particularly during the summer. With just a few clicks on my mobile phone, I can do most of the farming work," Chen said.
He added that the local lychee industry has transformed significantly with the help of digital technology.
More than 20 mu (about 1.3 hectares) in size, this orchard is the county's agricultural demonstration park for digital farming.
Co-built by a local agricultural company and China's e-commerce giant Alibaba, the park features a variety of digital equipment including an integrated irrigation and fertilization system, a pest monitoring system, and a spore collection device, helping create a standardized lychee cultivation system.
Lingshan has a long history of lychee farming. The juicy varieties of lychee are popular among consumers for their thick flesh and small core. According to the local agricultural department, the lychee plantation in Lingshan currently covers an area of 417,000 mu, with an annual output of about 150,000 tonnes.
Li Haizhou, deputy director of the local agriculture and rural affairs bureau, said digital technology and standardized production have played an important role in promoting the cultivation of high-quality seedlings and reducing the burden on farmers.
Digital tools in the demonstration orchard provide real-time monitoring of the weather and pest conditions to develop a scientific watering and fertilization plan.
"The planting of lychee in the park now relies more on scientific data than farmers' individual experiences," said Lin Haiyin, who is in charge of the park's operation, adding that the park has been developing greenhouse cultivation for year-round lychee production.
Traditionally, lychees are harvested in summer. Currently, farmers in Lingshan are busy picking lychees, which are all sent directly to a public warehouse of agricultural products.
Fresh lychees are cooled and scanned on a digital sorting line to be classified according to size, weight and sugar content in the warehouse. After sorting, grading, packaging and loading, the freshly picked lychees are transferred to cold-chain trucks and stand ready for supply to domestic and international markets.
Wu Duoce, from Alibaba's digital agriculture division, said fresh fruits require cold-chain logistics. By introducing the public warehouse, the county government has established a centralized logistics facility to assist farmers in reducing expenses.
The automated grading system also increases the price of high-quality lychees, which encourages farmers to consistently enhance the quality of lychee production in order to advance the local lychee industry's development, Wu said.
Lychees from Lingshan were sold to markets including Canada, Malaysia and Singapore last year. Wu added that the digitization of the lychee industry chain has aided the country's efforts to penetrate international markets for the local specialty.
At present, 100,000 farmers in Lingshan are involved in the lychee industry. The digitalized agricultural development is expected to bolster the county's rural revitalization endeavor.