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Wageningen University an Pinduoduo collaborate on Smart Agriculture Competition

Wageningen University and Research (WUR) of the Netherlands will work with Pinduoduo, China’s largest agriculture platform, on the 2021 Smart Agriculture Competition, helping to promote innovation in automation and precision technologies to increase efficiency in agriculture.

The Smart Agriculture Competition, which runs from August 2021 to March 2022, will draw teams from around the globe to remotely grow tomatoes, combining agronomic knowledge with precision technology such as greenhouse automation, sensors, and algorithms. The objective is to develop efficient techniques to grow tomatoes with high yield and nutritional quality at a low cost, while using an environmentally sustainable approach.

Dr. Silke Hemming, head of the Greenhouse Technology research team from WUR, will be one of the judges at the Smart Agriculture Competition. She will review submissions during the competition, provide technology support to participants and share best practices from the Netherlands.

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Growing models
Teams that reach the finals will be assigned a 96-square-meter stand-alone smart greenhouse, to cultivate the tomatoes and verify the results of their growing models. The participating teams can independently control the greenhouse facilities, including ventilation, shading screens, water, lighting and fertilizer systems. Cameras will also allow teams to monitor and obtain real-time growth parameters.

WUR will host workshops on greenhouse horticulture and future trends in intelligent agriculture. Specifically, WUR professors will share on topics such as the digital transformation of the Netherlands’ agriculture supply chain, tech-empowered greenhouse horticulture, tomato postharvest quality prediction, and biological control strategies in the greenhouse. The workshops will take the form of an intensive boot camp with 1-2 days training, combining both online and offline support.

Deploying automated technology in working farms is one of the aims of organizing the Smart Agriculture Competition. As part of its mission to promote agricultural modernization, Pinduoduo has sought to gather the top minds in technology and agronomy to develop “one-click planting” solutions to help improve the productivity of farmers and their livelihoods.

Traditional farmers versus data scientists
The inaugural competition last year, co-organized by Pinduoduo and the China Agricultural University with the technical guidance of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, pitted traditional farmers against data scientists in a strawberry growing contest. The technology teams produced 196% more strawberries by weight on average compared with traditional farmers, and also outperformed in terms of profitability of investment, according to the organizers.

Final scores in this year’s competition will be judged on the quality, yield, efficiency of energy consumption, the deployed algorithm strategy and commercial viability. The winning team will receive 450,000 yuan ($69,500) from a total prize pool of over 1 million yuan. Other rewards include funding from the Pinduoduo Agritech Research Fund and collaboration opportunities with competition partners.

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