China's e-commerce giants are using data capabilities and supply chain upgrades to help boost development of the agricultural sector. In Shanghai's Chongming District, Alibaba and government authorities have signed a partnership to help promote the island’s farm products using digital infrastructure.
Sensors and smart screens have been set up at pear farms in Chongming. Drones spray pesticides on orchards, and underground sensors send back soil analysis so that nutritional supplements can be added when needed.
Strict standards govern the size of pears and humidity control during transport. The produce goes directly to the shelves of Freshippo, Alibaba’s grocery chain. Similar farms and criteria will be set up in Pudong New District and Qingpu District in the near future.
"We hope to lay the framework for modern agricultural and a supply chain that produces top-quality fruit and appropriate compensation for farmers," said Hou Yi, chairman of Freshippo and head of Alibaba's digital agricultural unit.
The e-commerce giant hopes to add several dedicated warehouse and dispatch centers close to produce-growing areas to provide faster shipment. Three dedicated warehouses close to the origin of produce are expected to be established by the end of this year in the cities of Xi'an, Chengdu and Zibo as part of a nationwide supply chain.