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This Ex-NASA Scientist Is Using Big Data To Raise Yields On China’s Small Farmlands
Despite a long agricultural history, China’s farming industry suffers from some serious inefficiencies, partly due to the country’s small and dispersed farming plots. It’s a problem that Beijing-based startup Gago wants to solve through the power of technology.
“Compared with the U.S., China’s farm fields are more scattered in nature. For example, the total land for each farmer in the U.S. is around hundreds or thousands of acres, it’s large but it’s relatively easy to manage because it’s usually one piece of big land.”
“But in China, a farm is divided into hundreds of blocks. The first thing we have to do is to define the boundaries of numerous small blocks and to evaluate the land metrics of each one.” Zhang Gong, founder and CEO of Gago, said to TechNode.
Gago’s intelligent agriculture solution, dubbed ‘Wonderland’, is a cloud-based platform for farming companies, enabling real-time monitoring and smarter decision-making by leveraging visualized agronomic data.
Gago processes data with a self-developed algorithm to create customized farm management solutions for different fields. The platform gives advice on pest or disease forecasts for certain crops, maps irrigation plans, optimizes farming machines and intercropping schemes.
“We use three data sources. The first one is remote sensing, which collects the subject images for monitoring the variation of crops and other things. The second source is climate data, which includes historical climate data and weather forecasts. Finally, it’s land and crop data, such as soil moisture and land elevation”, Zhang said.
Zhang Gong, Founder & CEO of Gago
China’s rapid urbanization is strongly affecting the country’s social structure. “While the farming population in China is shrinking, the total land for each farmer to manage is expanding. They need technology to support large-scale farming.” Zhang noted when talking about the market potential.
Right now Gago provides farming management solutions for five crop types including corn, rice, potato, hay and pitaya. The company plans to add more crop categories, like sugar cane, in the future.
China is the priority for Gago, but the startup is planning to implement their model in countries that also have small and dispersed farming plots. Zhang noted that they have already launched pilot projects in Pakistan and Thailand.
Zhang Gong, an ex-NASA scientist and serial entrepreneur, founded Gago with his fellow researcher Gu Zhu last year. “The satellite and climate data are only for governmental use previously, but they are now increasing the amount of such data that’s open to the public. This makes it possible for a wider commercial application of big data and we believe these data can bring fundamental changes to the agriculture industry.”