According to the JD.com corporate blog, the factory is 11,040 square metres in size and uses both hydroponics with solar light and a closed seedling production environment with artificial lighting.
“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,” said Xiaosong Wang, President of JD FMCG and Food.
“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.”
“[Temperature], humidity, light, and liquid fertilizer are automatically controlled by the factory’s management system, enabling more standardised production of high quality vegetables without the challenge of seasonal changes,” added JD.
‘High quality’ here refers not only to higher micronutrient content (where the facility’s spinach contains 80% more folate, 25% more potassium, 37% more phosphorus and 32% more vitamin C than regular spinach), but also that no pesticides or chemicals are used in the planting.
The factory can also produce more vegetables than conventional systems. “[We] 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,” said JD.
Traceability and sustainability are also particularly important here. All crops at the factory ‘are tracked from the time they are planted to when they are delivered’. JD also claims that it only takes half a litre of water to grow any of the vegetables in the facility.
Importantly, the facility’s integration with the JD cold chain network means a shorter, less complicated transport process.
At present, the plant factory produces spinach, red and green lettuce, coriander, cabbage and more. Its crops will be available online at JD.com and offline at the company’s 7FRESH supermarkets from December 2018.
JD food-related alliances and developments
The plant factory is only the latest of JD’s many food-related initiatives with a technological bent.
Earlier this year, JD launched its first unmanned convenience store in Indonesia.
The technology in the JD.ID X-Mart enables shoppers to ‘walk through the store, grab what you need, and walk out’ using its JD.ID phone app.
Shortly after, the company announced partnerships with 18 fruit retailers across the globe, aiming to bring New Zealand kiwis, Canadian cherries, United States oranges and cherries and Chilean blueberries to China within 48 hours.
The brands involved include kiwi brand Zespri, South Africa’s Capespan, US strawberry farm Driscoll, Dutch brand FruitMasters and Chile’s Prize.