China’s Long Food Chain Plugs In

HONG KONG — The smartphone tells the story of a kiwi fruit in China.

With a quick scan of a code, shoppers can look up the fruit’s complete thousand-mile journey from a vine in a lush valley along the upper Yangtze River to a bin in a Beijing supermarket. The smartphone feature, which also details soil and water tests from the farm, is intended to ensure that the kiwi has not been contaminated anywhere along the way.

“I have scanned some electronic products before, but never any food,” said Xu Guillin, who recently tested the tracking function at the supermarket while shopping with her 3-year-old grandson. “We pay lots of attention to food safety. Most families with young kids would.”

Controlling China’s sprawling food supply chain has proved a frustrating endeavor. Government regulators and state-owned agriculture companies have tried to tackle the problem in a number of ways — increasing factory inspections, conducting mass laboratory tests, enhancing enforcement procedures, even with prosecutions and executions — but food safety scandals still emerge too often.

Chinese technology companies believe they can do it better. From the farm to the table, the country’s biggest players are looking to upgrade archaic systems with robust data collection, smartphone apps, online marketplaces and fancy gadgetry.

Executives studied foreign agriculture businesses. Joyvio hired a top American agronomist who specialized in the development of preservatives and microorganisms that work as natural pesticides. The company bought farms in Chile and Australia and partnered with two large Chilean fruit companies.

“We’ve leveraged our global capacity to bring a lot of new technology to China,” said Mr. Chen. “We continue to eye buying companies or farms in other countries, and also in China to give more scale to our ability to provide high-quality products and goods.”

Cao Li contributed research from Beijing.

A version of this article appears in print on March 2, 2015, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: China’s Long Food Chain Plugs In . Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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