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Agricultural innovation in Henan province

by: SPI

This document is targeted at the following audience: 

  • European SMEs and start-ups which provide innovative methods or ideas in agriculture-related sectors, such as agricultural machinery, smart agriculture and green agriculture. 

  • European SMEs and start-ups with technologically advanced features e.g., advanced machinery, Internet of Things (loT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), ICT, etc. who would like to enter the Chinese agriculture market 

 

Overview

Agriculture remains one of the most important sectors of the Chinese economy, supporting the majority of the population. The share of agriculture as part of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been more or less constant at 10% in recent years, and this sector employs about a third of the country’s workforce. China feeds a population accounting for 20% of the global figure with 7% of the world’s total farmlands. It is the world’s largest agricultural producer by volume and the second-largest agricultural importer by value. China is a global producer of a number of crops and vegetables, such as rice, cotton, wheat, corn and potatoes, and its imports amounted to USD 142 billion in 2019, accounting for 6.4% of global imports.

China has emphasized the role of innovation in its key policy document on agricultural, rural work in 2020. China released its “No.1 Central Document” for 2020 on January 5th 2020, outlining guidelines for agricultural and rural development. The country is determined to drive breakthroughs in key agricultural core technologies and promotion of independent innovation in certain areas, heavy agricultural machinery, smart agriculture and green agricultural inputs. In the meantime, the establishment of agricultural innovation platforms such as science and technology centres are being strengthened. In addition, China has been increasing openness to foreign investors in the agriculture sector in recent years as their participation will help modernize China's agriculture sector, benefit the sustainable development of the land, and improve the quality of agricultural output. A draft catalogue for foreign investors released in February 2019 affirmed that the country encourages foreign investment in various sectors including modern agriculture.

Henan province is a large agricultural province located in central China, which is known as an important base of quality agricultural products. Main food crops produced in Henan comprise winter wheat, millet, kaoliang (a variety of grain sorghum), soybeans, barley, corn (maize), sweet potatoes, rice, and green lentils. Among these crops, wheat is by far the most important, in both acreage and production. Its output ranks at the top in China and has been successfully exported. In terms of fruits, dates, persimmons, apples and pears are the major fruits produced in this province, with walnuts and chestnuts also grown. 

Agricultural innovation is underway in Henan Province. It is responsible for one-tenth of the country’s grain output but only has one-sixteenth of the country’s arable farmlands. At the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress in March 2019, President Xi Jinping told deputies from Henan that there’s much room for the development of modern agriculture and the top task was to ensure supply of important farm produce - grain in particular. In order to achieve the goal set by the central government, the provincial government has prioritized innovation of agricultural science and technology and made progress in several areas such as new and more varied breeding techniques, high-yield cultivation methods, formula fertilization by testing soil, pest and disease control, and many others. 

On Level 2 you can find information about agricultural innovation and business development in Henan province, while Level 3 will tell you more about business activities (through case studies) and what the EU has contributed in this region. 

 

This page will offer a brief overview of agricultural innovation in Henan province. 

In recent years, Science &Technology innovation has supported the development of the agriculture sector In Henan province. In 2019, the wheat and corn breeding levels ranked among the top in the country, with 93 new varieties of major crops approved by the state, accounting for one-tenth of the total amount approved; the coverage rate of good varieties of grain crops remained above 97%, and the comprehensive mechanization rate of the main crops’ cultivation and harvest reached 83%, which is 15% above the national average.

Later in August 2020, the outcomes of 13 major provincial S&T projects in the agricultural field have been checked and accepted by the government. This batch of projects involved food processing, seed industry, planting and other fields, and has achieved a number of key technological breakthroughs in the industrial development of peanuts, fruit trees, corn, laying hens, and meat products processing. The projects received investment of 77 million CNY from the government, together with 820 million CNY from the private sector; in total it has generated 192 patent applications, including 99 for invention patents, one for national new variety approval, and 47 for new plant varieties approval. It has achieved annual sales of more than 6.39 billion CNY.

Agriculture research and development in Henan 

As a major agricultural province with some of the highest output of grains in China, Henan province is in leading position in wheat breeding. Aikang 58 (AK58) is a new species of wheat breaded by one of China’s leading agricultural scientists – Professor Ru Zhengang, who is currently a professor with Henan Institute of Science and Technology. This new species is semi-winterness bread wheat characterized by high, stable yield and resistance to cold and multiple diseases. The Aikang 58 species has contributed to the increase of the country’s wheat output by 12 billion kilograms through cultivating a high-yield version which is able to make better use of light energy when compared with other species. 

Agricultural innovation in Henan is not only focused on breeding. There are technological breakthroughs in other areas, such as irrigation systems. Modern irrigation not only helps in reducing the amount of water needed but also improves crop yields and production. For instance, a 200-metre long computer-controlled sprinkler has been in operation in central Henan’s Xuchang city. Unlike the traditional flood irrigation system which uses more water and could only be applied in a very limited area of farmland, this modernized sprinkler has a sensor that reads the soil’s moisture and then decides how much water to sprinkle.  

Sino-Israel Agriculture High-tech Demonstration Park

The Sino-Israel Agriculture High-tech Demonstration Park, located in Neixiang County, Henan province, is Henan’s largest agricultural industrial park jointly created by the Neixiang County government, Muyuan Group, a local food-processing and farming giant, and Sonic Agricultural High-tech Co., Ltd., an Israeli company located in Nanyang, Henan. The total investment is 130 million CNY (USD 20.2 million) and at this stage, they have built up five energy-conservative, AI-operated, climate-controlled halls, eight coolhouses, together with four open-field demonstration plantations that produce small and large tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, cauliflower, and bell peppers. The park is equipped with the IoT system for greenhouses in a fertigation control centre, which enables real-time monitoring of conditions of the park’s irrigation system, as well as significantly lowering the amount of labour and fertilizers needed, reducing water pollution, and improving the quality of the produce. The annual yield of around 0.067 hectares could reach 15,000-20,000 kilograms of organic products, through the application of smart technologies which include soilless system, trickle irrigation system, and plastic film applied to avoid the growth of weeds and to redirect light to the plant.

This section will centre on China-EU S&T collaboration in agriculture, and relevant EU and Chinese stakeholders and their actions contributing to agriculture innovation and business development in Henan. 

China-EU S&T Collaboration in Agriculture

The China-EU S&T cooperation is governed by a Science & Technology Cooperation Agreement, signed in December 1998 and renewed for the third time in December 2014. Research and innovation in the field of Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology (FAB) has been identified as a key priority for the EU-China cooperation, with a dedicated EU-China Task Force on FAB established in 2013. In addition, a flagship initiative on FAB was launched at the EU-China Summit in November 2013 and as of 2020, it has translated so far into around 20 projects for a total funding of more than €120 million under the Horizon 2020 programme. The FAB Flagship (Work Programme 2018-2020) will emphasize on integrated approaches to food safety in agri-food chain, high-efficient management of soil quality and land resources, healthy soils for healthy food production, and use of biogas digestate for high-quality organic fertilizers. 

Presence of local and global companies in the agriculture sector in Henan province

Local state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and private companies have been contributing to the development of agriculture in this region. Henan Agricultural High-tech Group Co., Ltd., for instance, is a wholly state-owned enterprise invested and established by the Henan provincial government, with a total registered capital of 335 million CNY and nearly 500 employees. The company is run by the Henan Academy of Agricultural Science, on behalf of the local government, and its business scope covers multiple areas such as seeds, biological pesticides, biological feed, healthy breeding, and the development of agricultural and sideline products. In 2019, the company invested 100 million CNY to build the National Bio-breeding Industry Innovation Center, aiming to breed a batch of new crop varieties and realize large-scale planting of them. In terms of private companies, China’s leading meatpacker and pork producer Henan Shuanghui Group, has been recognized as one of the most innovative Chinese companies by Forbes Magazine. It has already established 10 research institutes targeted at meat production, and through robust experimentation, a cutting-edge quality control system has been developed by the company, which is used to monitor the conditions of 15 million hogs in factories across China.  

In addition, global corporations like DLG Group and Royal FrieslandCampina have also been major players in the agriculture sector in Henan. 

  • DLG Group, the largest farm supply company in Europe and owned by Danish farmers, launched a joint venture with Henan PUAI Group. The new feed company is able to produce customized pig feed and premix by European standards. Through the cooperation, cutting-edge animal nutrition technology, scientific management system, as well as new types of varieties have been introduced from Europe to China. 

  • Royal FrieslandCampina, a Dutch dairy company and one of the world’s largest dairy companies, signed an agreement in 2013 with China Agricultural University and Wageningen University and Research Centre to establish a China-based Sino-Dutch Dairy Development Centre (SDDDC). This has the objective of improving the quality and safety of the Chinese dairy chain. Henan Huahuaniu Group, a Chinese player in the dairy industry, has partnered with the Dutch company and joined SDDDC. 

 

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