Post-95 entrepreneur aims to bring China’s agriculture online

Image above – China Daily 

20-year-old Gou Yingda has already spent seven years in Internet start-ups, and is working to use the Internet to transform China’s agriculture.

Tall and slim, wearing sports shoes and a jeans jacket, Gou Yingda runs in quick steps upon arriving for the interview. His brisk manner and the bounce in his step make him seem like any other 20-year-old.

However, the young man is already an industry veteran, having spent seven years in Internet start-ups, and is now the CEO of an Internet company aiming to link farmers with urban consumers to guarantee green, organic produce.

He smiles frequently and shows not the slightest trace of tiredness, even though he only slept four hours last night due to work.

The company he runs, Ye Nong You Pin Technology Co Ltd, rents the usage rights of farmland to consumers for prices ranging from 299 yuan (S$64) to 1,699 yuan per year, based on the size and quality of each plot, and hires farmers to grow crops on them. In fall, during harvest, the company delivers the produce from their plot to the consumer after some standard processing.

“Our company aims to optimize farm inputs, as farmers know the market prospects before they grow crops, improving efficiency and reducing pollution,”said Gou.

The company sets up cameras on the farmland, and provides real-time updates via live streams, so consumers can check on their plants on mobile phones.

It did this because Gou believes the key to successful branding is consumers’ trust, and allowing them to watch the whole farming process fulfills this goal.

“We pledge to provide organic food with no pesticide residue, and aim to become China’s top agricultural brand,” said him.

A quick look at his Wechat Moments reveals that Gou is a workaholic. He flies out of Beijing every two to three days on average to attend seminars, check on farmland, and give lectures. Many photos he posts show him working at midnight and eating instant noodles.

“Investors choose me because I’m persistent in what I’m doing, and they believe in my business model,” he said.

Gou was born in 1995 in Chifeng city in North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Growing up with the Internet, he understood the commercial value of Internet connections at a young age.

“I became addicted to programming in primary school,” he said. He created a game forum, which earned him 200,000 yuan during operation. This boosted his confidence, and he decided to become an Internet entrepreneur.

After high school, he spent a whole summer at a coffee house, a well-known hub for business starters in Beijing. There he immersed himself in the circle and eagerly exchanged views with other entrepreneurs and investors.

The passionate young man gradually got to know famous investors like Angel Investor Xu Xiaoping and Tong Chen from IDG Capital Partners.

In late 2014, Liaoning agricultural entrepreneur Yu Lianfu, believing in online agribusiness and Gou’s potential, invested more than four million yuan in him to start the company.

Then a student at China University of Science and Law, Gou temporarily suspended his studies to focus on his career.

Now the company has gained the usage rights of 30 square kilometers of prime land in Xinbin county of Northeast China’s Liaoning province.

The county was rated as a national prime spot for growing precious herbal medicine including ginseng, due to its fertile soil on the river basin and its low pollution levels.

However, farming methods there remained primitive, like in most rural Chinese areas.

Farmers farm their own small plots of land and lack branding. They decide what to grow based on last year’s market. As a result, oversupply causes unreasonably low prices and waste as crops are left to rot in the field.

“Agriculture will tend to be developed on a larger scale, and the market can now be predicted using big data. I see the backwardness of traditional farming, and also see the huge business potential if I bring information technology in,” said Gou with confidence.

His words echoed that of Chen Xiaohua, Vice-Minister of Agriculture, who stressed that information technology is the key for China to modernize its agriculture.

Gou has just received a five million yuan investment from IDG Capital Partner, and is working on drawing the next round of investment.

Asked why he didn’t continue developing apps or websites, since they are both popular and lucrative, he said it was because they are not quite beneficial to society.

Through his agribusiness platform, on the other hand, farmers can increase their income and urban people can eat healthier.

Gou believes that post-90 entrepreneurs like him understand the Internet better, and are prone to break old industry moulds because they are not part of entrenched interest groups.

But they also face obvious disadvantages: they lack experience in dealing with people, have few networks, and lack capital.

According to Youth Business China, a foundation that provides training and investments to entrepreneurs, only one in ten young entrepreneurs succeed. But this data doesn’t bother Gou at all. “I’m just doing something that I like, so I feel my life is meaningful,” he says.

Gou said he hopes he can be a confident and charismatic man like Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba. At 20, his career has just begun.


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