In the tastiest tech deal so far this year, a pig farm in China has attracted US$23 million in funding from some big-name firms and #startup investors. It’s not April 1, so this is no ham-fisted joke – it was reported by Yicai, one of China’s top business news sites.
The cash goes to Weiyang, an 80-hectare (800,000-square-meter) pig farm where just six people rear 20,000 porkers.
The funding is not actually that weird when you realise this pig-rearing business was started by William Ding, a Chinese tech executive worth US$15 billion from his founding of Netease, a US$35 billion web and gaming portal.
Sinovation Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm, and Meituan-Dianping, an US$18 billion company made up of two popular daily seals sites, led the US$23 million round. Alibaba arch-rival JD also contributed.
Bae of pigs
Ding, 45, started the pig farm in 2012 with a focus on technology and environmental sustainability – and black pork from Jeju black pigs, which is supposedly tastier than regular pork.
Though it’s not designed to be a substantial boost to his tech firm’s bottom line, the venture has proved capable of bringing home the bacon – such as when one of its little piggies went to market and fetched US$40,000.
His techie farm’s aim is to scale up to the point it can produce artisanal black pork that costs around US$8 to $12 per kilo, which is well above China’s US$4 pork price. Ding is also planning to open a gourmet pork restaurant sometime this year.
China is the world’s top pork producer, with an output more than double the entire European Union – and nearly five times more than the US. Indeed, China is home to half of the world’s pigs.