‘Top technology providers must prove themselves in China’

China’s greenhouse gardening is growing rapidly – investors and governments are eager to set up new companies. This offers many opportunities for Dutch suppliers. But according to Signify Sylvia Xu, these are not just opportunities to take advantage of. “China does not have gardeners who know how the sector works. That knowledge is needed to implement Dutch high-tech solutions in China. Signify became a partner of the Dutch Green House Delta (DGD) this year. They help to spread knowledge in the horticultural sector, government and science through a wide range of DGD networks and to make the horticultural sector more sustainable in China.

If anyone knows the Chinese greenhouse, it’s Sylvia Xu. She grew up in Shanghai, China, and began working on Signify 18 years ago, then known as Phillips Light. Initially working indoors and outdoors, Sylvia has been working in the company’s horticultural department for the past ten years. Here, she is currently working as Director of Business Development for Fruit and Vegetable LED Solutions. “That is a big deal,” she said, “but in practice this means that I will pass on our knowledge of LED lighting to gardeners and our local landowners. “In other words: I want to help the brand’s in-house expertise be put to good use in Chinese horticulture as much as possible. During the pre-Kovid period, I often flew to China. Last year, knowledge transfer was mainly done digitally. ”

Signed by Sylvia Xu, Business Development Manager

Wide diversity of investors
According to Sylvia, there is a great demand for knowledge in Chinese gardening. The sector is undergoing significant changes. The country has the largest land area in the world with 3.7 million hectares. Of these, approximately 950,000 acres[750,000 ha]are the type of arc greenhouse. 9,000 hectares are glass greenhouses, of which 10-12% are high-tech greenhouses. In recent years, high-tech horticulture – both vegetable and ornamental – has taken over China. However, high-tech horticultural knowledge and environmental talents are still scarce in China. “Glass green houses have been built in China since the mid-1990s, but initially these greenhouses were used for research and demonstration purposes and were rarely used for commercial purposes. These greenhouses are often funded by the government alone.

Today, large-scale commercial high-tech greenhouses are growing rapidly across the country. Real estate companies, online retailers, IT companies and government-owned companies that have seen more opportunities in gardening. They often work with local or regional authorities and set up their new Agri business units. Meanwhile, Chinese gardening brands are also growing and investing in modern and high-tech greenhouses. China’s desire is clear. They want to transform low-tech farms into high-tech. Due to the growing demand for high-tech horticulture, Dutch technology and Turkish companies are often in demand. Thanks to their knowledge, experience and competitive prices, many of these high-tech greenhouses were built by Dutch greenhouse builders. But upgrading mid-tech greenhouses to improve production and quality also provides opportunities for Dutch companies. Overall, the opportunity for China is there and now. In order to protect the competitiveness of domestic companies, a Dutch company is innovating and adjusting its business strategies for China along the way.

Ensuring food supply
It is not without reason that an increasing number of parties are investing in greenhouse gardening projects. According to Sylvia, China provides 20 percent of the world’s food, but only 9 percent of the world’s agricultural land is used to grow crops. “That means more farming. In addition, the effects of climate change on foreign crops are increasing. Heavy rains and desertification, among other things, are becoming increasingly difficult to produce outdoors. Reasonably, this greenhouse brings more attention to the garden. In other words, the transition from offshore production to greenhouse horticulture is crucial to maintaining food security and food supply in China for decades to come. The Chinese government is also committed to this. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, if nothing is done, there will be food shortages until 2025. In addition to feeding its own people, China also wants to play a major role in world food. The supply is growing as the world’s population grows and the demand for fresh and safe food is constantly increasing. ”

Long-term commitment is required
But there are also challenges. As China’s high-tech greenhouse gardening is a relatively new phenomenon, there is still a great lack of knowledge and experience to turn these technologies into commercial success. That’s why parties simply don’t invest in LED lighting. “They do not yet know if additional lighting will add value to their crops and their environment. And if they do, the question is whether they should invest in HPS or LED. With relatively little practical experience and investors coming from outside the fruit and vegetable sector, many parties are primarily affected by costs. If so, LD is often not considered an attractive option. To be able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Chinese market, we, at Signify, need to not only show off – with our partners – but also educate Chinese investors, farmers, the government, and the value of LEDs.

We look at the Philips lamp recipe – LED test – The program will gradually start to pay off in the Chinese market after 10 years. Fruit and vegetable LED lighting is not uncommon in China today, but it is becoming more and more common for the sustainable, low-carbon, new generation greenhouse. Big business projects are adding LED lighting solutions from us. We will continue to make every effort to differentiate our offers from our competitors through education, LED cooking experiments, packaging preparation and real product tracking; Together with our local botanical specialist, application engineering team, and our global solution network, the Dutch Green House Delta, we want Chinese parties to try out the world’s most advanced fruit and vegetable techniques. As we have said, China offers many opportunities to high-tech gardeners, but companies must be in it for a long time. You really have to prove yourself here.

Signify, however, already recognizes many LED and hybrid projects in China. The list of references includes Wu Han Agropark, where we worked with Kubo Greenhouse projects – to produce fresh tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers, salads – and the Lynx International Port of Harbor project with the Bom team. Linisia Gansu. Sylvia hopes that these projects will help convince Chinese parties of the value of additional hybrids and LED systems. Our plant specialist will also be involved in projects aimed at gathering more information on the use of LED lighting. “In this context, for example, we have partnered with Wanging University in Shanghai and Lankuway Agricultural Company. This project not only provides more serious information about the use of LEDs, but also provides an insight into the ideal greenhouse climate in these regions. In addition, we want to work with Dutch and Chinese leading companies and research institutes to demonstrate the potential of high-tech horticultural techniques, and economic potential. This should help policy makers, investors and producers gain a better understanding of high-tech gardening opportunities.

Vertical farm
The company also participates in various vertical farming projects. These include the Orisis project in Shanghai, one of the largest fruit and vegetable companies in China. Upon completion of the project, Oriss will be able to provide new harvest, nutritious, tasty and pest-free products to Shanghai-based food service distributors, grocers and consumers. This will be the first vertical farming project in Shanghai using our flexible Growwise lighting control system. We have been working very closely with Priva since the beginning to customize the system design. Sylvia says. “However, vertical farming is not yet commercially developed in China. It is still primarily focused on small-scale initiatives or serves as a technology show or business model for government or entrepreneurs. Some Chinese and Taiwanese companies aim to enter the global straightforward agricultural market with competitive low-cost concepts. From a light point of view, straight agriculture is in high demand, especially in Southeast Asia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. For example, Singapore has a target of 30 percent of its local food needs by 2030. To achieve this, direct agricultural projects are essential.

The beginning of coming together
In China, in addition to the lack of practical experience, the greenhouse garden has other challenges. “Sustainable agriculture, using as little energy as possible and using as much clean energy as possible, is paramount. With our LEDs, we can certainly play a key role in this. In Dutch farms, we can easily switch from Philips HPS lamps to Philips LEDs to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 38 – 42%. Meanwhile, LEDs also provide less heat, which means the vents should not be unnecessarily opened and thus CO2 emissions, less waste on other agricultural resources. The need for a complete supply chain is now recognized by Chinese parties. There is a lot going on in the supply chain right now but a lot of work still needs to be done.

But the biggest challenge is still the shortage of horticultural entrepreneurs and managers who know how the sector works. And that knowledge of the environment, the adaptation of China’s business strategies, the continuation of education and the aftermath of sales services are essential to enable the Netherlands to acquire a high-tech base. As Dutch suppliers, we can only take advantage of the long-term opportunities in China if we can raise the level of knowledge in China and support companies in practice. In short, China’s agricultural sector offers many opportunities, but it is not a quick victory. Striking and running a system can bring some short-term benefits. But long-term success in China requires the government, companies and leading research institutes to work together to address these fundamental challenges. It will be important for Dutch companies to come together “to win the Chinese market.”

LED lighting in Chinese solar greenhouse

The importance of a general solution
Sylvia believes that a platform like the Dutch Green House Delta can add value to China. Chinese officials and investors are looking for parties that can provide a comprehensive solution. But in any case, good cooperation is needed to solve the problems faced abroad. Everything here is different: the culture, the climate, the decision-making process, and so on. It is almost impossible for a private company to provide a custom solution. In other words, close cooperation helps to better respond to local needs and circumstances.

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