Zhou Zhenpin’s life became much easier once some surveillance cameras were installed in his kiwi orchard. With the simple click of a mouse at home, the man can clearly see almost every corner of the orchard on the screen.
“My orchards cover an area of more than 670,000 square meters. It took me about three hours to patrol around before. But now, I can easily get to know what my workers are doing somewhere and what diseases some plants are suffering from,” said Zhou, a farmer from Xiuwen county in southwestern Chinese city Guiyang.
This is just part of a set of equipment placed in his farmland. The matched mini “meteorological stations” play a special role. The devices besides the cameras are used to collect various data related to air, soil, and rainfall, which are transmitted in real-time to a big data center in the county.
“Our experts will work out a scientific planting and field management plan based on analysis of this data, such as when to pollinate, fertilize and harvest, to make sure the quality of the fruit can live up to a high standard,” said Yang Jian, deputy general manager of Xiuwen County Agricultural Investment and Development Company that operates the big data center.
Xiuwen started kiwi farming about 30 years ago, during which time, local farmers had to grow fruits all by experience, and relied largely on luck for their earnings. In 2015, the company was established in an attempt to transform the development mode by virtue of big data.
The data analysis is applied all the way to marketing. Each box of the fruit has a unique QR code, and consumers can know all details by scanning the code. In return, the center will get to know about the demographics of the consumers and their preferences. This can help farmers flexibly adjust their farming plans.
Now, the efforts have paid off. Yang said that under the standard planting, the rate of waste has declined by about 20 percent, which has transformed into net profits.
“The biggest change is that the quality of our fruit is a lot better, and the price is higher,” said veteran orchardist Zhou, adding that the villagers’ annual income has obviously multiplied.
Once a backward area, Xiuwen is now one of the largest kiwi suppliers in China, setting an example for poverty alleviation.
This echoes a key agenda of the ongoing big data industry expo in Guiyang — how big data can contribute to poverty reduction. Officials, enterprise executives, and scholars are all sharing their insights on this long-term challenge.
“Scientific farming is, of course, a good attempt in integrating big data. A major problem now is that the cost is relatively high. So how to expand this mode and make it sustainable remains a challenge,” Yao Hongyu, a cloud computing scientist, told CGTN. “But I believe the issues can be addressed with the improvement of related technologies and optimization of the business model.”
Yao has another suggestion — properly matching the labor force in rural areas with the employment market via big data applications. He said this can be another viable attempt at reducing poverty.
Guizhou used to be one of China’s poorest provinces. Since the country launched the targeted poverty alleviation campaign, it has hauled a large number of people out of poverty, which can be partly attributed to the application of big data to various industries.
Guizhou is China’s first big data pilot zone. Over the past few years, the mountainous province has attracted quite a few heavyweight tech firms, including Huawei, Apple, Qualcomm, Tencent, and Alibaba, to establish cloud computing and big data centers here.