Growing plants with less water could be a vital breakthrough for a country like China that is often faced with chronic water shortages.
Angkefeng Optoelectronics Technology, a startup based in the Institute of Advanced Technology incubator in Hefei, Anhui province, is one company trying to make this a reality
It has developed a film that, when put on glass, refracts light so that plants in greenhouse environments can grow with less water. The refracted light can also be turned into electricity.
Angkefeng Optoelectronics Technology has developed a film that, when put on glass, refracts light so that plants in greenhouse environments can grow with less water. The refracted light can also be turned into electricity. Zhu Lixin / China Daily
Li Ming, 33, who is one of the company's founders, says the fact that Hefei has been made a pilot city for the government's Made in China 2025 strategy could be important for the business as it develops.
"As a result of the strategy, we will be able to get funding from the institute and guidance in running the business. Startups like us see it as a great opportunity," he says.
Li founded the business, which now employs 20 people, in 2012 with Zhang Fanxin, 37, a fellow PhD student at the University of Science and Technology; their academic supervisor, Liu Wen, 57, who also is an investor; and Yan Ru, 36, who is in charge of marketing. They also received 30 million yuan ($4.54 million; 3.83 million euros; ￡3.39 million) in venture capital funding.
"The problem for us is that, although we are doing cutting-edge research, we don't know how to run a business. That is why working in this incubator works for us."
JEE Automation, one of Hefei's leading companies, is also making breakthroughs.
It makes assembly lines for some of the world's leading automotive companies, including PSA Peugeot Citroen and Jaguar Land Rover.
It recently made China's first assembly line - for aluminum car bodies - that operates with just robots, with no need for humans.