By Yuan Taoxiong, People’s Daily
“Thanks to the intelligent supply chain center, I was able to sell all of my 40,000 kilograms of kiwifruits in a short period of time,” said You Changjiang, a fruit grower in Zhouzhi county, northwest China’s Shaanxi province, adding that the smart supply chain center could send off his kiwifruits to customers three to five hours after they placed orders.
You, who has been growing kiwifruit for 21 years, was always snowed under with work during the harvest season. This year, he has finally been able to take it easy as the smart supply chain center has made it much easier to sell his fruits.
The planting area of kiwifruit in Zhouzhi county has reached 28,800 hectares and the number of kiwifruit planting cooperatives in the county exceeded 1,000. A total of more than 300,000 local people are engaged in kiwifruit-related industries like You.
“When I first started to plant kiwifruit, I found no local market, so I had to ask people to truck the fruits to east China’s Shandong province, Shanghai and other promising markets. After a few years, I found that I had even sustained considerable losses,” You recalled.
Later when e-commerce came into sight, You invited distributors of e-commerce platforms over to seek cooperation, which still couldn’t solve the poor sales of his kiwifruits.
You was not the only fruit grower in Zhouzhi that was troubled by poor sales. Local fresh fruits had generally faced sales difficulties accompanied by low added value.
On the one hand, the sale of fruits lacked standardization. Instead of grading their fruits according to size and quality before selling them, fruit growers used to mix all their products together.
On the other hand, the local warehousing and cold-chain facilities couldn’t satisfy people’s demand, which led to short shelf life for fruits. Even with superiority in quality, local fruits still couldn’t sell at a higher price and their sales were hindered.
To address the pain points in the sale of kiwifruits, Shaanxi province has continuously explored ways to upgrade industrial chain of agricultural products in recent years.
As regards production, the province has enhanced the research and development of machinery and equipment as well as high-quality pollen. Meanwhile, it has increased input into the construction of relevant infrastructure to accelerate the improvement in fruit sorting and storage capacities, advancing the high-quality development of the entire industrial chain concerning farm produce.
In September this year, the local government of Wugong county of Shaanxi province, 20 kilometers away from where You lives, and Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com jointly established an intelligent supply chain center that integrates fruit purchasing, refrigeration, processing, sorting, packaging, logistics and delivery services in the county.
Covering an area of 36,000 square meters, the intelligent supply chain center is equipped with cold storage, intelligent fruit selecting center and flow direction-based sorting center. After automatic sorting and grading, kiwifruits directly transported from the orchards are stored at the cold storages, which help keep the fruits fresh in a constant temperature.
After consumers place orders, the intelligent supply chain center can package products and send them off directly. It can handle as many as 160,000 orders a day.
At the center, boxes of kiwifruits are taken out from the cold storages and then put on modern automatic sorting equipment, where each fruit is cleaned, dried, and assessed under infrared cameras that can automatically determine the weight, size, appearance flaws and internal injuries of each fruit within seconds.
Then the fruits are put into corresponding containers based on the results of the automatic assessment for manual inspection and automatic packaging. The whole process takes less than half an hour.
“With the intelligent supply chain center, our work becomes easier. All we need to do is keeping in touch with fruit farmers and focusing on online sales on JD.com and other platforms,” Luo Xiangfeng, manager of a fruit distributor in Shaanxi, told People’s Daily.
The intelligent supply chain center, which can package and send off fruits the same day it receives information about orders, has cut the loss rate of kiwifruits to 7.3 percent from 15 percent in the past, and significantly reduced the cost of sales, Luo pointed out.
With the help of the smart supply chain center, he has preordered the products of fruit farmers in Zhouzhi, including You, and heightened efforts in the sale of the fruits. It is expected that the annual number of orders handled by his company will reach 20 million, an increase of 46.9 percent year on year.
For fruit farmers, the upgraded and intelligent transformation of supply chain has changed their original extensive production and sale models.
“Although the yield of kiwifruits has declined this year due to the weather, but its price has risen. We don’t need to worry about storage and transportation any more and can make money out of our fruits at our home now,” You said.