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Farms get boost from agricultural tech, biochem

By WANG MINGJIE in London | China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-22 09:34
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Workers carry harvested grapes at a vineyard in Yongning county, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, in October 2019. [Photo/China Daily]

With China's dual carbon goals, the growth of biochemical sales in China over the last four years has been faster than anywhere else in the world, said an executive at Syngenta Group, a Swiss agrochemical firm.

According to Corey Huck, global head of Syngenta Biologicals, climate change has been a major driver for the adoption of biochemical fertilizers in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in China.

"The adoption rate for biochemical fertilizer in China has been extraordinary, to the point that the market is at about 9 percent, but it is some 19 percent in China," Huck said.

He pointed out that the primary driver for such growth in biochemical fertilizer in China is the expected adoption of nutrient use efficiency (NUE) technology, which helps plants grow faster and healthier.

"I think due to years of the overuse of fertilizer in soil, the overall response in China seems pretty strong, both from an environmental standpoint and in crop quality and health, so it seems to me that the soil, the environment and the climate are set up well for the bio-stimulants to perform very well there," he added.

As climate-smart and regenerative agriculture gain traction in China, the company has seen strong demand for its tailor-made programs such as the Modern Agriculture Platform (MAP), which is aimed to provide farmers with customized solutions from sowing to harvesting.

In the first half, MAP sales grew by 93 percent to $1.8 billion in China, surpassing the entire prior year's sales, with the number of MAP centers increasing by 48 to a total of 540. A total of more than 2 million farmers are now registered to the platform.

Camilla Corsi, head of research at Syngenta's Crop Protection, said: "The agricultural revolution is happening in China."

She attributed MAP's popularity in China to the fact that growers realize the opportunity they have by working with experts and by accessing innovative retail solutions. "Ultimately, these services increase the quantity and quality of the crops and the yields, and this, in the end, is money in the pocket," she said.

While digital agricultural solutions are urgently needed in China, Wu Wenbin, deputy director of the Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, said the country's digital agriculture is still in the initial stages of exploration in technology, equipment, systems and platforms, and there is still a long way to go to fully realize digital transformation in the industry.

Based in Basel, Switzerland, Syngenta Group was formed in June 2020 following a merger involving Syngenta, acquired by China National Chemical Corp Ltd for $43 billion, Israel's crop protection company ADAMA and the agricultural business of China's Sinochem, under a single entity.

Since its acquisition by the Chinese company, Syngenta has made great strides in expanding its presence in the Chinese market. The company is currently building a $230 million research and development facility in China to improve conditions of the nation's soil through biotechnology.

To consolidate its leadership in agrochemicals, Syngenta in 2020 acquired Italian biochemical group Valagro, a company with reported sales of 191.5 million euros ($190 million) in 2021, that specializes in the production and sale of bio-stimulants and specialty nutrients for plants.

One of the biochemical innovations that Valagro has recently launched was Talete, a new bio-stimulant that increases crop water productivity. The product became available in China in March 2021.

Alfredo Sgrignuoli, senior product manager at Valagro, said: "The initial response we have received from farmers is very promising and I am confident the demand in China will continue to grow strongly."

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