Downtown transplant promotes smart, carbon-neutral farming in Chongming

Huang Zhen, founder of Vert Organic, created a country farm, an online farm and a city farm to provide consumers with organic mutton, rice and vegetables as well as a weekend getaway during holidays.

Nearly 1.9 meters tall and handsome, Huang grew up in downtown Shanghai but has always been fond of the countryside. As a result, he is devoted to his beloved land in Chongming District and uses knowledge and technology to improve the environment, product value and agricultural production efficiency.

“Vert” means “green” in Latin. Such a traditional connotation has been integrated with fashion elements through the Internet.

Huang’s team is building a new system. By downloading the Vert Organic app, people can “grow and collect vegetables” through their smartphones.

For example, after claiming a piece of land on Vert Organic’s farm, you can plant vegetables in the field and then water, fertilize and harvest them by simply sending instructions through your phone.

“You can experience the feeling of being a farmer at home,” Huang said.

Agriculture must keep up with the fast development of Internet.

“We have established online app services and connected them with offline supplies,” Huang said. “To put it simply, customers can place orders through the app and get products at Vert Organic’s pickup spots.”

Downtown transplant promotes smart, carbon-neutral farming in Chongming

Ti Gong

Huang Zhen (center) and farmers check seedlings in a Vert Organic greenhouse in Chongming District.

Huang’s 200 hectares of farmland in Chongming’s Zhongxing Town is divided into three sectors – a goat farm, rice paddies and vegetable greenhouses – to form a sustainable agricultural mode combining planting and breeding.

Goat manure can be made into organic fertilizer. At the same time, vegetable straw can also be used as feed for goats. Chongming’s good land, water and air are highly beneficial to Huang’s business.

“Vert Organic is striving to become the biggest carbon-neutral farm in Shanghai,” said Huang.

The first batch of Vert zero-carbon emission vegetables are on store shelves this month.

“We hope to build Vert Organic into a carbon-neutral demonstration farm through low-carbon farming, carbon-negative planting and more use of new energy,” he said.

“The added value of Chongming’s organic agricultural products will be further enhanced. The complete industry chain from field to table will form, and high-quality production, high-tech equipment, high-level operations, high-value utilization and high-efficiency output will be realized.”

Vert Organic’s current operation mode is based on three farms.

The first is the 200-hectare country farm in Chongming. As a production and R&D base of smart agriculture, it is also a demonstration base for agricultural education, innovation and tourism.

The second is an online farm, which is a diversified e-commerce sales platform.

Thirdly, urban farms featuring new retail approaches can improve sales of agricultural products. High-quality agricultural products can be sold with more added value. Through this mode, people in downtown Shanghai will enjoy the convenience of buying organic food at their doorsteps.

Vert Organic has also established an e-commerce intelligent management service system, including a farm ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, a market matching platform, an agricultural product quality and safety traceability system and a membership management system.

Huang has always been very concerned about the quality of food. In his view, with changing concepts of daily consumption, more attention will be paid to health and food safety.

Vert Organic’s systems display information such as the planting plan of agricultural products, real-time output of agricultural products and post-harvest inventory. Customers can also supervise product quality and safety themselves.

Downtown transplant promotes smart, carbon-neutral farming in Chongming

Ti Gong

Huang Zhen (2nd left) inspects a packaging workshop of Vert Organic.

“Raising farmers’ incomes is another important driving force for me to start a business,” Huang said. “We should promote planting organic vegetables to more farmers and help more of them achieve income growth and prosperity.”

Vert Organic’s annual sales are 30 million yuan (US$4.3 million), which has raised the incomes of more than 600 local farmers and made the company a leading agricultural enterprise in Chongming.

“I have been with Vert Organic for 10 years, and I have witnessed the company’s growth,” said Zhang Xiu, head of the company’s packaging workshop. “As a Vert Organic employee and a Chongming native, I am very proud.”

Zhang’s colleague Ding Lianrong said: “I am from Xinxiang in Henan Province. I work at Vert Organic for 10 months every year, and I am mainly responsible for seedlings. The work is easy, but the income has increased a lot. I was rated Vert Organic’s best employee in 2020, which made me a member of the family.”

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