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China's breadbasket province leads the way in high-tech agriculture

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-06-07 14:14
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Unmanned rice transplanters in the sprawling paddy fields on the farm in Northeast China's breadbasket province of Heilongjiang on May 7, 2023. [Photo/Hongwei Farm Co Ltd]

HARBIN -- New technologies, including drones that can spray crops with fertilizer and pesticides, and rice transplanting machines equipped with the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, are empowering Hongwei Farm Co Ltd in Northeast China as a pioneer of intelligent agriculture.

More than 30 rice transplanters, led by seven unmanned machines, have been deployed to plant seedlings in the sprawling paddy fields on the farm in Northeast China's breadbasket province of Heilongjiang, avoiding obstacles and turning around when needed.

So far, Hongwei Farm Co Ltd owns 699 unmanned rice transplanters, saving more than 2 million yuan ($281,200) in labor costs each production season, said Li Yan, general manager of the company's agricultural development department.

With the unmanned rice transplanters, "we will significantly improve the utilization rate and output of our paddy fields," Li said.

With smart transplanters, fertilizer spraying drones, and intelligent management systems, Heilongjiang has witnessed a new era of technological development and agricultural achievements, providing a blueprint for the future of agriculture in China.

In a field belonging to Junchuan Farm Co Ltd, seven drones flew over the rice seedlings along the navigated route, spreading the liquid green manure they carried.

With a tap on the smartphone, operators using these drones can complete the fertilizing of 105 mu (7 hectares) of paddy fields in minutes.

"We apply liquid green manure three to five days after rice transplanting to promote rapid rice greening and further increase the yield," said Chen Long, general manager of the agricultural development department of Junchuan Farm Co Ltd.

"Farming was very tiring in the past, but now it has become much easier thanks to the development of technology," said Zhou Dehua, a farmer of Qixing Farm Co Ltd, which belongs to the Jiansanjiang branch of Beidahuang Group, one of China's major grain producers.

Zhou almost gave up farming in 2012. However, high-tech agricultural equipment reignited his hope. Now, the 50-year-old man has expanded the area he cultivates from 150 mu to 400 mu, with an annual income of nearly 200,000 yuan.

Nowadays, Jiansanjiang is home to China's largest agricultural machinery fleet, with 11,655 rice transplanters equipped with BDS. The comprehensive mechanization rate of farming has exceeded 99.8 percent, with over 20 percent of agricultural operations carried out by intelligent machinery.

Heilongjiang has remained China's top grain producer for 13 consecutive years. Its grain growing area has remained above 200 million mu this year, according to the provincial department of agriculture and rural affairs.

In 2022, the province produced about 77.63 billion kilograms of grain, accounting for 11.3 percent of the country's total.

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