Chinese man becomes online celebrity after building Chinese–style greenhouse in Canada

(People's Daily Online) 15:43, March 23, 2021
Chinese man becomes online celebrity after building Chinese–style greenhouse in Canada
Photo shows Dong Jianyi’s vegetable greenhouse. (Photo provided by the interviewee)

Dong Jianyi, a Chinese man who had never even set foot on a farm before moving to Canada, is now running the first and largest commercial Chinese–style passive solar greenhouse in the country's Alberta province.

It took the man years before he finally became a vegetable farmer and then a local celebrity farmer thanks to the tasty and organic vegetables he cultivated using Chinese greenhouse planting techniques.

Dong's story is an extraordinary one, in part because he didn't grow up on a farm. He studied to become a geologist at Peking University in China and began to work at Schlumberger, a leading oilfield services company in 2007, after getting his master's degree.

Dong came to Calgary, Alberta, in 2014 and planned to continue his career at a local oil company. However, due to the sluggish state of the local oil industry there, he found it difficult to land a decent job.

Then, he noticed a different kind of opportunity on Calgary's fertile land, when he found that local residents mainly got their vegetables transported from other regions of the country or imported from Mexico or the U.S.

This prompted Dong to start growing vegetables, even though the long winters and harsh weather there were far from ideal for it. "It was not easy to grow vegetables, but since there was a huge market demand, I wanted to give the idea a try," he said.

To learn the proper farming techniques, Dong spent half a year apprenticing at a greenhouse in Manitoba, Canada, and traveled back to Shouguang, a major vegetable base in east China's Shandong province, to learn about passive solar greenhouses. Back in Canada, he taught himself how to grow vegetables from media platforms on agriculture.

He also abandoned the idea of conventional Dutch greenhouses, which are the most widely adopted method in Canada and which rely on fossil fuels and artificial heat through winter, leading to high operating costs. On top of that, vegetables grown in these greenhouses do not taste as good as those cultivated using Chinese greenhouse technologies.

In 2019, Dong built a Chinese-style passive solar greenhouse measuring over 100 meters long and 10 meters wide with a height of 6 meters. It's a double layer greenhouse with a thick clay wall inside it to keep in the warmth.

Dong built the entire greenhouse himself to save on labor costs, and most of the materials were bought over from China, including steel pipes and blankets, as he couldn't find them in Canada. "I am so proud that China as a manufacturing power can produce so many high-quality materials," he said.

Dong relied on organic methods to grow vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, spinach, corn, and Chinese cabbage, avoiding the use of pesticides. Now, Dong's organic vegetables have become increasingly popular among local residents.

"Customers have to place an order in advance. Some customers told me that even their children like to eat my vegetables, which are more tasty and nutritious," said Dong, adding that he was proud of the Chinese agricultural planting techniques.

The greenhouse has made Dong and his wife internet celebrities. "Chinese young people are awesome. I am an engineer from Silicon Valley, and I am so touched by their stories," commented a Chinese person living in the U.S. "I admire their courage and determination, and these are the reasons why China can be so successful," a Western man posted.

Thanks to Dong's rising fame, his greenhouse has been frequently visited by Westerners who come to learn the vegetable greenhouse techniques. After visiting Dong's greenhouse, a local agricultural expert revealed that it made him realize Canada is lagging behind in vegetable growing techniques.

Dong hopes that China's vegetable greenhouse techniques can be more widely adopted in Canada. "The Chinese techniques will benefit small farmers most because they can be used on even a small piece of land," said the man.


(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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