Mass-produced Shanxi tomatoes find fortune overseas

(chindaily.com.cn)

Updated: 2020-01-21

Farmers in Jinzhong city in northern Shanxi province now have different way of growing tomatoes: instead of traditional cultivation, tomatoes are grown in industrial quantities -- with the output doubling and tomatoes increasingly being exported overseas.

Leading the way forward is Tomato Theme Town -- Asia's largest intelligent single greenhouse in Jinzhong National Agricultural High-tech Industrial Demonstration Zone in local Taigu district.

It has introduced soilless cultivation technology -- that is, agriculture containing or using no soil -- from abroad. Its interior tomato farmland has been constructed like a scenic spot, attracting hundreds of farmers who are eager to work there.

Xue Ruihua, 65, a farmer in Gezitou village in Taigu district, has been freed from the land he cultivated for over 40 years and found a place in this intelligent tomato production line.

His daily routine is to check for pests and diseases during growth of tomatoes in the single greenhouse with an area of more than 125,000 square meter and an average temperature of 25 C. The irrigation, ventilation and temperature controls in the period of tomato sowing to harvesting are all automatically controlled by computers. 

"Now my wife and I each have a salary of several thousand yuan each month. The work is simple as we just need to find problems and report them to technicians, while we had to work day and night in the past to earn the same income," Xue said.

The output of the Tomato Theme Town exceeded 2,000 metric tons in 2019 and senior farmers like Xue Ruihua can earn around 50,000 yuan ($7,256) a year under conditions requiring less intensive labor, according to Cheng Kun, one of directors of Tomato Theme Town.

More foreigners have also been attracted to the Tomato Theme Town.

Miguel is the third group of foreign agricultural experts who came to Taigu district in Jinzhong to provide technical guidance in the rural greenhouses.

Over the past six months, the Spanish expert has become a technical consultant for farmer Hao Yuedong, in his thirties. 

In Hao's greenhouse, various agricultural technologies and facilities are seen everywhere: coconut husks from India and Sri Lanka replace soil; drop arrow drippers from Germany control irrigation; bumblebees from Belgium are responsible for pollination. 

"We have more than 30 years of successful planting experience in Spain, and we are glad that the farmers here can accept the new cultivation method," Miguel said.

Hao's greenhouse is a joint project formed by local Haocun village and Tiansen Group, a leading agricultural company in Taigu district.

The greenhouse is one of the local planting bases integrating irrigation and fertilization, which has changed farmers' planting ways, reduced the use of pesticides and fertilizers and reduced groundwater pollution. 

In addition, 30 percent of the tomatoes produced from the Tomato Theme Town will be sold to Europe and sales channels to Russia have also been opened after Tiansen Group signed a sales agreement with Riqueza Mediterranea, a Spanish company.

Tomato Theme Town has also set up various types of workstations to introduce more technicians and experts to serve local farmers and improve planting technology and tomato qualities.

"We will further expand the external market, improve the technology and agricultural machinery of ordinary farmers and enhance the quality of agricultural products and local farmers' lives this year," said Fang Qian, a senior planting official at Tomato Theme Town.