Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Factory Farming Organic Vegetables

In a ceremony July 26, plans for China’s first “vegetable factory” were unveiled. The vignette is a good example of China’s emphasis on high technology and the cozy relationship between government and business. Moreover, the incongruous the pairing of “factory farming” and organic agriculture is out of step with the Western organic agriculture movement. Products from projects like this are ending up in your “organic” food products, undermining the whole concept and prompting a turn toward “local” food.

Beijing Zhonghuan Yida Horticulture Sci-tech Ltd. Co and Shenyang Liangma Group LLC signed an agreement to create China’s first “vegetable factory” in Xiaohan village. According to the agreement, Shenyang Liangma will invest 200 million yuan to build the factory and Beijing Zhonghuan will supply advanced technologies over a ten-year period.

At the ceremony, Mr. Liu, vice-president of the Academy said the institute is looking for ways to disseminate its research accomplishments through partnership with provincial governments and companies. The Academy plans to have a long-term multi-faceted involvement in the project and will encourage other institutes to contribute.

The project sounds like something from a Star Trek episode. A multi-level large-scale “vegetable factory” will be built in Xiaohan village that will produce “green” and “organic” vegetables in “three dimensions(?).” I'm not quite sure what a vegetable factory is, but there is at least one Chinese book on "factory-ization" of nurseries.

The factory covers 40,000 square meters with a technology demonstration area, production demonstration area and a facilities area. It will have a 10,000 square meter cold storage warehouse. The factory will have temperature, humidity, and light, carbon dioxide and nutrient solutions release under precision computer control. Production is increased by 5-10-fold using these methods. After the factory is built, it will be capable of supplying 830,000 kg of “green,” organic, and healthy vegetables, 350,000 kg of “green” fruit, 500,000 flower seedlings, 200,000 boxes of flowers, 100,000 kg of fresh water fish, with annual sales of 54.69 million yuan and profits of 13.6 million yuan.

The factory is supported by technology supplied by the Beijing Zhonghuan Yida Horticulture Sci-tech Ltd. Co., a hi-tech enterprise started by the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences Horticulture Environmental Engineering Research Center. After many years of research and development, its research results in “plant factories,” greenhouse energy conservation, LED plant solar energy and soil-free cultivation are taking a leading place in China. Some of the technology achievements surpass international level. Some techniques have been spread to the U.S., Holland and over 700 units in China.

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