JD.com, China’s largest retailer, has partnered with Japanese chemical manufacturing giant Mitsubishi Chemical to open the largest hydroponic “plant factory” in China. The factory, part of a strategic partnership between the two companies, brings the most cutting edge technology in agriculture together with JD’s state-of-the-art retail infrastructure.
The factory spans 11,040 square meters and incorporates a hydroponic culturing system with solar light and a closed seedling production environment using artificial light. Currently it can produce spinach, cabbage, red and green lettuce, coriander, and more. The premium-quality, fresh produce will provide JD customers with new options for safe, nutritious and environmentally friendly food options, both online and offline at JD’s 7FRESH supermarkets.
All crops produced at JD’s new plant factory are tracked from the time they are planted to when they are delivered, a step toward the future of food production and retail as consumers worldwide increasingly demand transparency. In China, in particular, consumers place high importance on food safety while the overuse of fertilizer, environmental deterioration, and rapid population increase have caused soil problems.
In the new facility, temperature, humidity, light, and liquid fertilizer are automatically controlled by the factory’s management system, enabling more standardized production of high quality vegetables without the challenge of seasonal changes. For example, spinach produced in the facility contains 80% more folate, 32% more vitamin C, 25% more potassium and 37% more phosphorus than if grown in the field. Meanwhile, the technology makes pesticides and agrochemicals unnecessary, reducing the need for washing.
Meanwhile, the new factory can produce a higher output of vegetables than traditional agriculture systems; it can grow 19 batches of spinach in a year, compared to just 4 batches per year in a field or 6 per year in a greenhouse. It only requires half a liter of water to grow any of the factory’s vegetables. The factory is integrated with JD’s cold chain logistics network, so vegetables can be delivered to consumers’ tables as soon as the same day they are cropped.
“The JD Plant Factory in Tongzhou marks JD’s entry into the very beginning of the fresh food production chain, allowing us to guarantee that the fresh goods we sell have been treated with the care JD applies to everything we do,” said Xiaosong Wang, President of JD FMCG and Food businesses. “JD’s supply chain technology, logistics network and e-commerce expertise combined with Mitsubishi Chemical’s sophisticated growing technology puts us in an ideal position to create an entirely new model for agriculture, and cultivates a fresh and healthy lifestyle in China.”
Fresh vegetables from the plant factory will be available on JD.com and at 7FRESH stores starting December. JD and Mitsubishi Chemical will cooperate to introduce more fruits and vegetables in the future.