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January 31, 2023

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Science for a better life: digital agriculture in rural China

Later this afternoon, as I was suffering from a fever, I bit into a fresh apple. The apple was so juicy and sweet that it almost cured me right away. Three days ago, I ordered the apples directly from Lao Zhang, an apple farmer far away in Gansu Province and now the apples are already on my table.

My mom and I are big fans of Lao Zhang’s apple farm livestreaming. I love to see Lao Zhang and his family’s happy faces and to see them tending their apple trees and their casual talk about their farm life. My father told us that his company made a donation to a primary school in that area and he visited there 11 years ago, and it took him more than 10 hours by car to get into the villages from the nearest town. The isolation and poverty struck him hard. Seeing the busy apple trade and the new look of the villages on livestream has “struck” him one more time.

In fact, the development of digital agriculture has been an active contributor to our country’s rural revitalization. Among all the supports and benefits digital agriculture is giving to rural families, e-commerce is playing the most important role in boosting rural economies.

Lao Zhang also benefits a lot from e-commerce. He often posts lively videos and gives livestreaming. By watching his videos I learned about his story.

Due to the poor infrastructure of the remote village he lives in, the farmers there had trouble selling their agricultural products and thus had negligible incomes. Thankfully, a new road was built and the village was finally connected to the rest of the country years ago. What’s more, the local government has provided technical training to the villagers. Since then, 58-year-old Zhang has been getting on board and promoting his agricultural products on different platforms. In 2020, the farmer received help from Alibaba and he officially started his e-business and began livestreaming on Taobao. People around the country can all see his livestreams. Consumers are even allowed to “pick” apples from trees and the picked apples will be packed carefully. All Lao Zhang needs to do next is to call the local Cainiao hub. Cainiao staffs will come to his farm within the day and take care of the transportation. Many consumers will give feedbacks on livestreams, this type of interaction creates trust and stronger bond between farmers and consumers.

Technology is always on the way to innovation. I firmly believe that the digitalization of agriculture has been improving and will keep improving livelihood of rural families.


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