July 3, DALIAN – The World Economic Forum’s 13th Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC), or Summer Davos, has taken place in Northeast China’s coastal city Dalian from 1st-3rd, July. As a foremost international summit to drive innovation and forge partnership, this year’s meeting, themed Leadership 4.0: Succeeding in a New Era of Globalisation, brings together a record number of participants from over 120 countries to address the world’s major challenges.
As an official member of the World Economic Forum, XAG engages with other 1,800 leaders from government, business, academia and civil society in the AMNC to find creative solutions to ensure a sustainable, inclusive and human-centred future.
XAG is a leading agriculture technology company and industrial UAS manufacturer, which developed its own patented agriculture drones, sensors and other digital farming tools for precision spraying, granule spreading and mapping.
Justin Gong, Co-founder and Vice President of XAG, gave a keynote speech at the meeting’s session The Future Frontier of Food: Scaling Agritech, in which he discussed the potential of agrifood technology with Mariam Mohammed Saeed Al Mheiri, Minister of State for Food Security of the United Arab Emirates and other attendees holding leadership positions.
At the meeting, Gong identifies the driving forces behind China’s accelerated development of smart agriculture, in addition to sharing stories on how XAG transforms the traditional agricultural production model and agri-food system through scaling and deploying drone, AI, big data and IoT technology.
“Urbanisation, industrialisation and technological innovation are the main driving forces behind Chinese development in the past 30 years, when agriculture had been considered a low-value sector. However, once new technology and new finance penetrate the rural areas, smallholder economy would present great advantages,” Gong explained later in an interview.
Smart Agriculture Requires Game-changing Technology
The world has entered a new phase of globalisation. One of the pressing challenges is that the world’s population would expand into 10 billion and requires 56% more sustenance by 2050, whereas the amount of arable land would hardly increase. Agriculture is therefore gaining more attention and being reshaped by new technology at an unprecedented speed and scale.
In China, a country struggling to feed 22% of the global population with only 8% of the world’s arable land, smart agriculture has been gradually taking root with the help of innovation and new technology. XAG has played a vital part in this process with its iterative, highly adaptive tech, when facing China’s distinctive agricultural model.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), nearly two-thirds of the 3 billion rural people from the developing world live in 475 million small farm households. Particularly in China which account for almost half of the world’s small farms, 98% of farmers manage farmlands smaller than 2 hectares. Large ground-based machinery, such as tractor, is difficult to reach these segmented lands, especially on hills and mountains. This smallholder economy has long been taken much of the blame for the less mechanised agriculture, with urbanisation and the rising labour cost further exacerbating the problems.
Drone and AI: Reshape the Smallholder Economy
Drone, flexible, cost-effective and easy-to-use, is a powerful weapon to achieve precision agriculture at all kinds of terrains. Since tapping into the frontier of agriculture technology in 2013, XAG has been establishing an integrated network of digital farming infrastructure, such as large amount of RTK navigation base stations and high definition aerial survey field maps, and introducing the fully autonomous agriculture drones to the remote rural areas. This not only helps resolve the rural labour shortage, but also boost agricultural productivity.
XAG P Series Plant Protection UAS sprays over terraces
For example, through the precision spraying and seeding technology, XAG’s plant protection drone proves to save the use of pesticides by more than 30%. For the past five years, such operation has reduced over 6,000 tons of pesticide use, conserved 1.4 million tons of agricultural water and helped farmers achieve a total crop yield increase by 980,000 kilograms.
“From 2014 to 2019, XAG has provided UAS plant protection services to 4.74 million farmers. And the field data we collected through our service helps us better understand the distribution of the whole smallholder economy,” said Gong. “Looking forward into the future of smart farming, I have seen so many opportunities to explore.”
XAG Training Centre
Such cool devices as drones are also encouraging many young talents back to the countryside, who give up their urban life and throw themselves into the wave of drone-centred crop protection business. To speed up the process, XAG has invested a lot in agriculture and drone related education, providing nearly 50,000 users with opportunities to professional farming.
Riding over the Wave of Industry 4.0 and Consumer Upgrading
How Industry 4.0 or digital revolution can serve as a catalyst to smart agriculture is another debated topic in this year’s AMNC. The convergence of drone, AI and mobile internet technology can not only inform farmers of scientific decisions to manage the farms, but also induce new finance model in the countryside. XAG Agriculture Intelligence (XAI), an AI-powered engine developed by XAG, is being applied to the fields to enable variable-rate application supported by AI prescription maps. Field edge recognition, fruit tree locating and weed detection can all be done with ease by XAI, based on the HD RGB and multispectral maps captured by XMission surveying UAS.
XMission conducts surveying operation
Fruit tree locating by XAI
Meanwhile, as these new technologies being introduced into the farmlands, financial institutions would change their attitudes towards smallholders who find it difficult to apply for loans. This is made possible when agricultural production and service records are digitalised and shared with outside financial institutions to build individual credit risk scoring system for farmers. In China, XAG has partnered with some of the biggest financial institutions such as Alipay to offer farmers, even those without credit card or collateral, convenient, equal access to loans and claims.
For instance, a farmer in Xinjiang, China has utilised XAG P Series Plant Protection UAS to conduct spraying operation as well as the XAG Farm Monitor to supervise the real-time crop growth. These smart devices have automatically collected an enormous amount of agriculture data which can serve as the farmer’s credit records. When an unexpected hail strikes and injures his Korla pears, the insurance company can immediately confirm such fact and approve his claim based on the agriculture production data.
XAG Farm Monitor
Besides, consumer upgrading has urged the agriculture industry to disrupt the traditional labour-intensive, resource-consuming pattern, while higher product quality and more traceable, transparent food value chain in turn attract consumers to go for premium produce.
Therefore, apart from improving the agriculture production process, XAG has also been striving to rebuild the trust between producers and consumers, through its big data and IoT system. The data collected by XAG’s drones include the types of pesticides and the chemical dosage for each spraying – all of which can be uploaded into the cloud and available to be shared to buyers and consumers.
UAS operation demo in Australia
Up to date, XAG’s products and services have successfully operated in a global network of 38 countries such as Japan, Korea, US and Australia. Born in China, XAG will continue to develop intelligent agriculture solutions adapted to local economy, resolving the food safety problem while creating a more diversified, sustainable future for the world.