AI vs Experience: Scientists and Farmers Face off in Agriculture Competition

After a weeklong battle, four teams of international scientists and four teams of Chinese agricultural experts entered the final round of the Duoduo Smart Agriculture Competition, held by e-commerce platform Pinduoduo and China Agricultural University.

The four science and technology teams are composed of scholars from top universities and research institutions, such as China Agricultural University, Wageningen University, Amsterdam University in Netherlands and Ghent University in Belgium. The four traditional agriculture teams include top-tier farmers from major strawberry-producing regions in China, such as the provinces of Anhui and Liaoning.

The eight teams are tasked to produce the best strawberries on the Yungui Plateau. Pinduoduo Agritech Research Fund will provide academic and commercial support for the winner’s research and implement their work at a Duo Duo Farm in Yunnan province.

“The application and production of digital agriculture in China is still at an elementary level,” said Zhao Jiazhen, co-founder of Pinduoduo. “As the largest online agricultural platform in China, Pinduoduo will do its utmost to promote the application of world-class digital agricultural solutions in China. This is not only the long-term strategy of our enterprise, but also our social responsibility.”

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During the competition, scientists will remotely grow strawberries using artificial intelligence and machine learning-driven algorithms, while farmers will rely on traditional techniques and collective experience.

“China’s agricultural development is in an important era of transformation and upgrading,” said Gong Yuanshi, vice president of China Agricultural University. “I hope to see top digital agricultural technology applied to agricultural production by holding such a cross-disciplinary competition that integrates artificial intelligence and agricultural planting.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations also supported the inaugural Smart Agriculture competition. This year’s cross-disciplinary smart agriculture competition is China’s first to be organized by a technology company and university in hopes of inspiring more young scholars and farmers to develop localized solutions and to improve the agriculture industry.

More than 40 teams from around the world signed up for the competition: 17 made the shortlist for the first round.

Participants presented their plans and ideas during an online video meeting to a panel of eight experts at the preliminary competition on June 15 and 16. Based on the technical advancement, practicality and cost of the proposed solutions, experts reviewed and chose four teams to enter the finals.