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China-UK fund boosts smart-farm industry

Grants of up to £500,000 will be made to joint Sino-British research partnerships that develop innovative technologies that support food production. The current state of global food production is so full of contradictions it is hard to stomach. We produce more than enough food for every person on Earth, yet hundreds of millions go hungry each day.

China and the United Kingdom, recognising a necessity for more sustainable and efficient agricultural practices, have initiated a new fund for smart-farming innovations. Smart farming describes cutting-edge technologies that support food production, including drones that spray plants, satellites that image crops and even robots that plant seeds and detect pests.

British innovation agency Innovate UK is committing £5m ($6.3m) to the fund, and China's Ministry of Science and Technology will invest a similar amount. The fund will distribute grants of up to £500,000 to joint partnerships between Chinese and UK researchers that develop smart-farming techniques.

Shadow Robot Company
British tech start-ups such as the Shadow Robot Company are developing new farming machines, including robots capable of picking and handling soft fruits and vegetables without damaging them. In China, Guangzhou-based manufacturer XAG has designed agricultural drones that have already completed millions of flights to help farmers combat pests such as the fall armyworm that can devastate entire harvests.

In Jilin province, farmers are working with the company Chang Guang Satellite Technology on a new method of satellite-assisted crop imagery that can swiftly deliver vital information on growth and yield over large areas.


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