Fan Lide, 42, used to be a taxi driver. He is now the owner of 36 greenhouses producing organic vegetables in the barren Gobi desert in northwest China's Gansu Province, and his business has been expanding over the past 10 years.
Fan is one of the beneficiaries of the Gobi Farming Program of the Gansu Province that is building rows of greenhouses in the desert to help transform local farming and alleviate poverty.
In 1995, Song Younian, an entrepreneur of the city of Zhangye in central Gansu, ventured to use Israeli technologies to build greenhouses for vegetables growing in the desert.
Such individual pilot projects encouraged the Gansu government to launch a provincial-level Gobi farming program in 2017 with a target to build up a controlled-environment agriculture of about 20,000 hectares by 2022. Some cities in the province, such as Zhangye and Jiuquan, where Fan's village is located, have already been experimenting with Gobi farming for several years.
The Gobi greenhouses popping up in Gansu use drip and spray irrigation, which can cut water consumption by almost 50 percent compared to a normal farm, according to Yan Shengjun, an agricultural adviser who serves as a consultant for local farmers such as Fan.
The greenhouses are also eco-friendly, as they use substrates for soilless cultivation recycled from rotten leaves, straw and cow and sheep feces.