Tech upgrades give a boost to Shihezi's agriculture industry
Drip irrigation technology, satellite navigation, and flying drones put to use in the field in the city of Shihezi in Xinjiang have boosted agricultural production and brought fundamental changes to farming in the region, and shown how technology can help with the development of one of mankind's oldest industries.
The irrigation pipeline in a cotton field in Shihezi City, Xinjiang. [Photo provided by Xinjiang Tianye Water Saving Irrigation Systems]
More than two decades ago, Xinjiang Tianye Water Saving Irrigation Systems introduced a drip irrigation system from Israel into the Shihezi region. This technology was a revolution for the region's agriculture: It greatly reduced labor costs, and improved the efficiency of agricultural water use.
"In 2006, drip irrigation technology covered 100 percent of agriculture production in Shihezi, and the farmers became familiar with the technology", said Yang Wanseng, a sales manager at the company. "If you ask farmers whether they can do their farm work without this technology, I believe above 90 percent of farmers will tell you no. "
Irrigation is not the only aspect of agricultural production that has been given a boost though the introduction of new technology. When the 1,500 hectare Hongxingxiang Planting Professional Cooperative was established in Shihezi in February last year, the Beidou navigation system was incorporated across the agricultural production process.
Zhou Run, the director of the Hongxingxiang Planting Professional Cooperative, during an interview in a field in Shihezi City, Xinjiang on April 15, 2019. [Photo: China Plus]
"First, the Beidou navigation system allows us to plant seeds precisely, and save the land; second, it provided navigation for agriculture production. Third, we use navigation for pest control in the field to improve the quality of production," said Zhou Run, the director of the cooperative.
A traditional tractor sowing a field will cause damage to the seedlings due to the inaccurate positioning of its wheel, resulting in low production. With only a 2-centimeter margin of error, Zhou said the Beidou navigation system has solved this problem.
By improving the utilization of the land, agricultural production and incomes have also improved, said Zhu Dewen, a staff member at the cooperative.
"Last year, the yield per mu of our land was more than 200 kilograms (13 kilograms per hectare), most of which was not making money. Thanks to the use of the Beidou navigation system, the loss of seedlings has been greatly reduced. Last year's yield per mu of production has doubled to 400 kilograms or more (around 27 kilograms per hectare)."
A tractor sows a field in Shihezi City, Xinjiang on April 15, 2019. [Photo: China Plus]
But perhaps one of the most visible signs of Shihezi's revolution in agricultural technology is the increasing use of drone. At the beginning of this year, 27-year-old Jiang Jinyu and two of his friends purchased two drones and started their own business using the drones to spray pesticides.
"It [a drone] can reach 700 to 800 acres (280 to 320 hectares) a day; I think the future for agriculture production is to move closer to drones," said Jiang Jinyu. He said that pesticides were traditionally applied to a field using a sprayer on a tractor, which can damage the field. Drones hovering over a field can spray pesticide without damaging the crops or the irrigation pipelines running through the fields.