Pinduoduo, China Agricultural University and Zhejiang University have jointly announced the launch of the 2021 Smart Agriculture Competition, an agricultural technology competition with the aim of fostering innovation and promoting agricultural modernization.
Contestants will take a multidisciplinary approach, applying nutrition science, precision farming and other relevant technology to cultivate tomatoes. The winners will be judged on yield, nutritional value, environmental sustainability and commercial viability. The competition is open to young agronomists and computer scientists from around the world and offers a total prize pool of more than 1 million yuan ($154,000).
Registration for the competition will end on Sept. 9, 2021. Teams can register through the competition website.
A total of 15 teams will be shortlisted by the judging panel to present their plans. The four teams with the highest scores will proceed to the final round of the competition.
Now in its second year, the Smart Agriculture Competition is led by Pinduoduo, China Agricultural University and Zhejiang University, with technical guidance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Wageningen University & Research.
The Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences and representative agencies from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark have also provided strong support. Leading agritech companies including Bayer Crop Science, Ridder Group and Omron have lent their industry expertise and advanced solutions to the competition.
Pinduoduo is organizing the annual competition as part of its support for global efforts to improve and modernize the agri-food system through technology. As China’s largest agriculture platform serving 824 million consumers, the company has made agriculture a central part of its mission to improve the way food is grown, transported and sold.
“The driving force for the improvement of the agricultural industry comes from the development and application of cutting-edge technologies,” said Andre Zhu, Senior Vice President at Pinduoduo. “As China’s largest platform for agriculture, we want to play our part to improve food security and quality in a sustainable way.”
For the 2021 Smart Agriculture Competition, the judging panel is composed of leading experts and growers with diverse backgrounds including horticulture, crop modeling, algorithm design and policymaking. Tomato experts from China, the Netherlands, and Denmark will provide guidance to the participating teams.
The competing teams will be judged not just on yield but also on the nutritional value and environmental impact of their farming methods. This is in line with Pinduoduo's strong commitment to environmental sustainability, food quality and food safety.
“The Smart Agriculture Competition plays a unique role in that it aims to foster innovation that is usable by smallholder farmers, who produce around 80% of the food in China,” said Tian Jianhui, Vice President of China Agricultural University. “It is an important platform for the different stakeholders in the agri-food ecosystem to come together to develop practical, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable solutions for working farms.”
In last year’s inaugural competition, the four technology teams employed data analysis, intelligent sensors and greenhouse automation to grow strawberries, producing 196% more fruit by weight on average compared with experienced farmers. Two of the technology teams have started to commercialize their technology after the competition, resulting in real-life gains in productivity for local farmers.
"China’s farming sector will undergo tremendous change, making the leap from traditional agriculture to modern agriculture,” said He Yong, Dean of Biosystems Engineering and Food Science College of Zhejiang University. “The Smart Agriculture Competition has encouraged more forces to push the industry forward together.”
Pinduoduo has gone from zero to over 800 million customers in just six years, making it the world's largest agri-focused tech platform. It is unique among other large internet companies to make digitizing the agriculture industry a core and strategic priority. Pinduoduo is also actively evaluating global opportunities to solve food safety and food security issues.
"Technology is transforming agriculture and food production. It is extremely important to implement the digital transformation of agriculture and improve food safety," said Carlos Watson, the FAO Representative to China. “FAO provided technical support to the Smart Agriculture Competition last year. We are looking forward to another successful collaboration to bring farmers real benefits through digitalization."