Yili Group: a look to the future

Aiming to build a “Dairy Silicon Valley,” the Yili Future Intelligence and Health Valley near Hohhot, inner Mongolia stands out for its strategic vision aimed at stimulating holistic development across the entire industry chain, harnessing digital transformation to empower the construction of a smart city, and realising the integration of industrial and urban functions through an eco-friendly approach. The site features a core development zone covering 38 square kilometres and a vast collaboration zone spanning 120 square kilometres. 

With a total investment of RMB5 billion (€74 million), the liquid milk production base can process 6,500 tons of fresh milk per day, which can meet a megacity’s daily demand. Equipped with digital management systems, including an automatic guided vehicle (AGV) feeding system, a warehouse control system (WCS), an information management system dedicated to spare parts management, an energy centralised control system and a manufacturing execution system (MES), the manufacturing process is fully automatic, transparent, efficient and traceable. A total of 32 production lines are planned within the base, mainly intended to serve products such as pure milk, Ambpomial Greek-style Yoghurt, Satine and the Shuhua series. 

The milk powder production base, with an investment of RMB3 billion, may be the world’s largest infant formula production base, featuring the highest level of digitisation and the most advanced technologies. It has an annual production capacity of 60,000 tons, which can feed 1.28 million infants per year.  

The Chilechuan Ecological Intelligent Pasture occupies an area of around 11,250mu (equivalent to the field of play area of 1,050 FIFA World Cup stadiums, or 7.5 square km), which can host over 12,000 cows. Continued efforts are made to improve the quality of cow herds via a set of technical methods, including genetic testing and embryo transplantation technologies to select and breed heifer cows of the highest quality, in order to rapidly improve the production quality of cows. 

Attention is also paid to enhancing smart management of the pasture: real-time monitoring and management throughout all aspects of pasture operations is realised through big data technology; a smart farm system automatically controls the barn environment to safeguard milk quality; and a number of world-class smart equipment, such as automatic milkers, automatic feed pushers, automatic manure cleaners and automatic feeders, are deployed at the pasture. 

In addition, over 10,000mu (6.6 square km) of land is planned for grass plantation to promote ecological, circular herding. 


Located behind an ecological park featuring recycled water creeks and ponds as well as lush green plants, the Yili Intelligent Manufacturing Experience Centre is situated in a massive butterfly-shaped building. Serving not only as a visitor centre, it is also a multi-functional space where visitors can enjoy the fun of dairy production and acquire knowledge about the dairy industry and nutrition. 

The centre houses China’s first dairy industry research and education base where a group of professional instructors deliver a series of nutritional courses catering to different age groups, with the aim of promoting dairy knowledge and heathy concepts among youth and adults.  

Based on Yili’s industrial chain, the Yili Future Intelligence and Health Valley continues to attract upstream, downstream and supporting projects to form an industrial cluster that will in turn boost the city’s socioeconomic development. To date, nearly 30 companies serving different roles across the dairy industrial chain – including plantation, herding, packaging, logistics, marketing, new energy, headquarters and urban construction – have found their home in the Valley, while more than 260 additional companies have also agreed to cooperate. Combining grass plantation, dairy farm construction, smart manufacturing, technological innovations, cultural and touristic functions, and healthcare, a system that integrates the whole industrial chain and product lifecycle is gradually taking shape. 

Additionally, the Valley is now also home to six national platforms, including the National Centre of Technology Innovation for Dairy and the National Metrology and Testing Centre for Dairy Products. 

Nearly 30 companies across the dairy industrial chain have found their home in the Valley.
Image courtesy of Yili Group


Dozens of projects have been put into operation at the Yili Future Intelligence and Health Valley over the past two years, including schools, hospitals, cultural and touristic facilities, healthcare, elderly care and residential apartments. 

Eight smart systems covering transportation, public services, manufacturing, tourism, medical care, elderly care, community services and household services have been implemented at the Valley through a 5G- and IoT-based integrated network of public services and infrastructure due to the advancement of big data, cloud calculation and blockchain technologies. 

A fully functional Yili Future Intelligence and Health Valley, once all the planned functions have been realised, will create direct and indirect employment opportunities for more than 350,000 people, of which 140,000 are newly created positions. Residents will be able to access various resources of the city on a multidimensional scale, including quality education, distinctive commercial and business opportunities, professional medical services and a healthy ecosystem, ensuring a high quality of living. 

Sustainable features 

A sustainable planning concept has been implemented from the inception of the Yili Future Intelligence and Health Valley programme, where features of the local landscape, such as Daqing Mountain, Daheihe and Xiaoheihe rivers, farmlands, pastures and grasslands, are included in the design to create an ecosystem integrated with the mountains, grasslands and water systems to help nurture and safeguard the city. The ratio of industrial space to residential space is 5:3, and the ratio of industry sectors (primary, secondary and tertiary) is 1:6:3, thus presenting a balanced development philosophy that pursues synergy between the ecosystem, manufacturers and residents. 

The four main projects mentioned have all implemented carbon reduction technologies and environment protection concepts from the angles of architectural design, energy circulation, manufacturing techniques as well as warehousing and logistics, in order to ensure all-round protection of the environment and a sustainable development of the dairy industry. By applying recovery technologies, the liquid milk production base can achieve energy savings of 5,329 tons of standard coal and a carbon reduction of 41,895 tons, equivalent to the environmental benefits generated by 2.3 million trees. 

The milk powder production base is the first in China to introduce a closed-type system for water recovery from evaporated milk. Rainwater and greywater are also collected and processed for domestic use and agricultural use such as irrigation. The Chilechuan Ecological Intelligent Pasture also makes use of solar power and air source heat pumps to reduce carbon emissions. 

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