Tea farmers in Zhejiang turn to digital technologies to boost yield

A growing number of tea farmers in east China's Zhejiang Province are adopting digital technologies to boost yield and meet the growing demand of premium tea products.

In recent years, high-tech power and meteorological equipment have been installed near tea plantations to collect weather data and monitor the yield and quality of Longjing tea trees.

Longjing tea is a premium quality green tea in Longjing Village, which lies in the West Lake District of the provincial capital Hangzhou.

Only around 500 tons of this tea is produced each year and market demand for the product is huge, with harvests beginning in March.

"For consumers, one of the biggest difficulties when buying West Lake Longjing tea is that they often don't know how to choose the authentic Longjing tea and are afraid of buying fake brands," said Qi Yingjie, chairman of Hangzhou Xihu Longjing Tea Company.

In response, local authorities are providing farmers and producers with special packaging labels to certify the authenticity of the tea based on where it's grown.

"If you have one mu or 666 square meters of a tea plantation, you will receive the anti-counterfeit labels to cover around 25 kilograms of West Lake Longjing tea. When consumers scan the QR code on the label, they will know where the tea leaves are planted and produced," said Qi.

"We collect data including air temperature and humidity, wind direction, rainfall and atmospheric pressure. The data is sent back to our system in real time. It will offer detailed reference for tea plantation management to improve the quality of the tea," said Ni Yong, deputy director of marketing at Zhejiang Evotrue Net Technology Co.

Ni said his company has installed more than 20,000 sets of this equipment across China, offering digital solutions for farming fruits, rice and other foods.

Now companies are working together to combine technologies such as 5G, AI and Block Chain to support agricultural production.

"We use block chain technology to ensure production, sales and traceability of all Longjing tea. This is our block chain ID card, this certificate on the block chain, it cannot be tampered with or eliminated in any way, to ensure the authenticity of the data," said Zhang Zhechao, deputy manager of the customer department of the Hangzhou branch, China Mobile Group Zhejiang.

China is one of the world's largest tea markets and there is hope that more digital technologies can be used to help the agriculture sector meet the growing consumer demand.

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