Business opportunities in the China's agri-tech sector

The Internet of Pigs is a good mix of high-tech platform and Chinese humour, but its creators at Beijing-based company Nongxin claim it is the solution to the country’s food security challenges.

Home to one of the world’s largest populations, China needs to substantially upgrade its agricultural technologies and supply chain to ensure that the 134 million people, that still face hunger within its borders, are adequately fed. And this is where British expertise in IoT, robotics, advanced biotech and processing can come in, implementing smart solutions in one of the world’s most connected markets.

Connected livestock management

Internet of Pigs real-time dashboard, China
Internet of Pigs real-time dashboard, China

What does the Internet of Pigs do? It connects the farms to their supply chain, veterinary support and financing options through a massive digital marketplace, using big data to upgrade farming practices, support agricultural logistics and increase lending to producers.

UK experience with integrating livestock sensing and health monitoring into such a platform would help increase quality and sustainability. Solutions such as a fitbit for pigs, an IoT-enabled farm data management tool or automated livestock safety alerts would easily find a market in the growing Chinese agri-tech landscape.

Increasing interest in maximising crop nutrition

And solutions are not limited to livestock. Crop improvements that maximise the nutritional content of plants are also a key need for Chinese consumers. While rice has been a traditional staple crop, its connection to a spike in diabetes has encouraged the country to move towards healthier alternatives, such as various varieties of wheat. UK research into these crops (such as the research on future wheat done by the John Innes Centre) and in making the most of the nutritious elements they contain through smart processing could bring about significant changes for the health of Chinese consumers.

Precision farming to reduce waste and enhance food safety

Hydroponics infrastructure for precision farming, China
Hydroponics infrastructure for precision farming, China

As China starts focusing more on food quality, it is also keen to make the best of British expertise on reducing chemical use and applying precision farming techniques to support waste reduction and enhance food safety.

Robotic agri-tech solutions guided or assisted by autonomous drones or satellite technology are steadily moving from the lab into the field.

Agri-tech drones tested in lab, China
Agri-tech drones tested in lab, China

Remote sensing – another area of agricultural know-how in the UK - could provide solutions for much needed monitoring and prediction of crop disease/pest outbreaks. This would inform risk-forecasting and decision-making at both farm and public authority level in China.

In a country where locust swarms can cover 6 provinces at a time with a concentration of 4000 insects per square metre, tools to track pests in real-time can make a huge difference for local residents and central authorities alike.

Newton agri-tech funding call

UK delegation visits the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
UK delegation visits the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences

Innovate UK supports businesses in accessing all of these opportunities through our live Newton- Fund call on agri-tech challenges in China.

Companies interested in working on farm technologies but concerned about partnering and IP rights can access further support from the Knowledge Transfer Network, the Enterprise Europe Network and the local IP support office.

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