Pinduoduo launched a vertical farming challenge for its 3rd Smart Agriculture Competition, an annual precision farming contest aimed at encouraging data scientists and agricultural researchers to develop productivity-boosting agricultural technology.
A vertical farm is a farm in which crops are grown in trays stacked on top of each other, allowing cultivation at a higher density. Globally, vertical farms have gained popularity for their ability to produce higher yields by controlling light, temperature, and nutrients, while minimizing disease, infestation, and pollution.
Participating teams in the Pinduoduo Smart Agriculture Competition will compete to produce lettuce in shipping containers, using technology including LED lighting, crop modeling, and algorithms to control input variables. They will take on the challenge of producing crops with higher yields and better quality using shorter growth cycles and less energy. Besides productivity and sustainability, the judging panel will also take into consideration the commercial viability of the different teams’ growing models.
The vertical farming will take place at the Bright Seed Vertical Farming Pilot Campus in Chongming Island, Shanghai. Bright Seedbase, part of the Shanghai Bright Food Group, joins the competition this year as a new partner. The other co-organizers are China Agricultural University and Zhejiang University, with technical support from the FAO Representation in China and the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
The latest vertical farming challenge follows the first two editions of the Smart Agriculture Competition, which took place in smart greenhouses in Yunnan province.
The inaugural competition in 2020 saw technology teams employ computer algorithms to control the strawberry growing process inside greenhouses. They beat top strawberry growers, producing 196% more fruit by weight on average. In the 2021 competition, data scientists and agronomists combined their knowledge to develop one-click planting solutions that farmers can use without the need for special training.
Several of the participating teams in the earlier competitions have gone on to implement their technology in working farms, as well as on large-scale pilots, with the view of scaling the solutions.
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