China turns to driverless tractors, combines to overhaul agriculture

NickOttensNickOttens Community ManagerAmsterdam, NetherlandsPosts: 896 admin
From Reuters:
A brand new combine harvester buzzes up and down a field in eastern China without a driver on board, chopping golden rice stalks and offering a glimpse of what authorities say is the automated future of the nation’s mammoth agricultural sector.

The bright green prototype was operating last autumn during a trial of driverless farm equipment as the government pushes firms to develop within 7 years fully-automated machinery capable of planting, fertilizing and harvesting each of China’s staple crops - rice, wheat and corn.

That shift to automation is key to the farming sector in the world’s No.2 economy as it grapples with an ageing rural workforce and a dearth of young people willing to endure the hardships many associate with toiling on the land.

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It points out that other countries, including Australia and the United States, are taking similar steps, but the sheer scale of China’s farming industry means the stakes are particularly high in its drive to automate agriculture.

There are obstacles, though, including the fact that many farms in China are small. They can't afford expensive machines and wonder why they need them if they only have one hectare or less to farm.


  • CarolineCaroline Los Angeles, CaliforniaPosts: 47 XPRIZE
    edited February 2019
    Very exciting innovation!

    This article brings to mind a couple of questions:

    1) What needs to happen to accelerate that 7 year timeline? What needs to change politically, socially, economically, and technologically for us to get there sooner?

    2) Are there ways to overcome the obstacles excluding smallholder farmers from making the most out of these new innovations? Can we reduce the costs associated with new inventions?

    Would love to hear your thoughts on these issues! What innovations are you exploring or working on? How do you see them being accessed and used by smallholder farmers?

    Add a comment to this discussion or start a whole new discussion under Innovations to tell us about your work and share your thoughts!
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