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China: Pinduoduo explores implementing agriculture solutions from FAO competition

Pinduoduo, China’s agriculture-focused technology platform, will explore deploying smart agriculture solutions developed by the winners of a competition organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to working farms, giving young 'agripreneurs' an avenue to test their business ideas at scale.

The Global Agrilnno Challenge 2020, co-organized by the FAO and Zhejiang University with support from Pinduoduo, attracted more than 150 teams from across the world. The competition invited participants to put forward innovative solutions in response to challenges associated with the distribution and sales of agri-food products during the pandemic period. The results were announced on Dec. 6.

AquaFarms Africa took first place in the finals of the challenge with an aquaponic system made from 90% local materials and ran on renewable energy. Two teams from China, Tianfu Honey and Mi Terro, placed a joint second with their respective solutions to digitize the beekeeping industry and produce an alternative to plastic packaging by re-engineering food waste. Teams from Spain, Bolivia, and Uganda shared third place.

“Pinduoduo is committed to helping farmers to ‘sell well,’ and consumers to ‘buy well,’” said Han Dongyuan, Vice President at Pinduoduo. “We will continually explore how to bring cutting-edge solutions to the field in China and provide small farmholders with the most suitable smart agriculture tools.”

The agricultural sector is facing the enormous challenge of feeding a projected 9.6 billion people who will inhabit the planet by 2050, which will require a 60% increase in food. The COVID-19 pandemic put the global food system through severe stress, disrupting regular logistics and sales channels at a time of surging demand for agricultural products.

FAO Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol, who served as the chairman of the judging committee for the Global Agrilnno Challenge, said the contest was timely given the importance of finding ways to improve the efficiency of agricultural production and distribution, and attracting more young people to take part in agriculture. Echoing her view, Zhejiang University Professor Wei Baolong said that digital agriculture required continuous investment, just like any other scientific field.

In China, the agricultural industry is characterized by small farms, low digitization and e-commerce penetration rate, making it more difficult to achieve standardization and economies of scale. The industry also faces the problem of an aging and dwindling farming workforce.

Pinduoduo has adopted a systems-based approach to addressing the inter-related issues of how to grow, move and sell food. The company has trained more than 100,000 e-commerce-savvy New Farmers to help bring more farming communities aboard the digital economy. It is working with Singapore’s A*Star research agency to develop portable test kits for contaminants to safeguard food safety. Pinduoduo recently announced it will invest in developing a smart logistics system suited to agriculture that can provide next-day delivery at a low cost.

The Global Agrilnno Challenge is the second agritech project that Pinduoduo has worked on together with the FAO. The FAO was the technical adviser to the Smart Agriculture Competition organized by Pinduoduo and China Agricultural University that pit technology teams against traditional growers to see who can produce the highest cost-adjusted yields. The aim of the competition was to gather the top minds in artificial intelligence and agronomy to see if they can develop commercially viable "one-click planting" solutions to help farmers raise their productivity. 

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