Tao Liyuan mentioned that he really likes XAG’s Future Farm Plan, which reminds him of beautiful farms in California, farmers in plaid shirts and jeans, and cheerful country music. In his imagination, future farms must be equipped with professional technicians who manage the farms and fulfill the duties of PCAs (Pest Control Advisers), with advanced and complete expertise.
Acquaintances of Tao all know that he can immediately identify diseases, insects, and pests suffered by all kinds of fruits and vegetables – regardless of whether or not you have seen the crop before – and provide solutions. Of course, each professional was once a novice. The two years after graduation was the period when Tao learned a lot and grew into a qualified technician.
In 2009, Tao Liyuan was assigned to work in the northern Hebei region, providing farmers with new plant protection services. Every time the local staff introduced Tao to the farmers, they would say, "This is Mr. Tao, a great teacher. He will provide you with services related to agricultural technology in the coming days!" To live up to the expectations of the farmers and the company, Tao kept practicing and improving himself. During the day he observed the growth of crops, and at night, he collected data and prepared teaching materials for the next day. He gave his first class in a winter at Xiaolin Village, Changli County, Qinhuangdao. In a crowded small cabin, the farmers listened to Tao share knowledge on scientific planting with interest.
Hebei is home to a huge variety of crops. Tao tried to study a new crop almost every day and prepare a technical lecture on it. Through chatting with different farmers, he learned many of the technical and marketing skills, including how to communicate effectively with farmers, how to deliver easy-to-understand lectures, and how to give examples. To him, Hebei was the best place to train agricultural technicians. Except for bananas, mangoes and citrus, all other crops are available in the province. Being a technician there meant having to answer countless questions on pesticide use every day.
Ten years later, Tao still appreciates the intensive training he received at that time. Afterwards he became the first open class teacher at XAG Academy. XAG Academy is an agriculture education platform established in 2016 to train talents for modern agricultural innovations and applications through online knowledge service and offline UAS operation training. He found that many young people engaged in agricultural production lacked knowledge on plant protection, which limited their career development. His original intention of joining XAG Academy was "to make every new-generation farmer a comprehensive plant protection expert."
Besides over 1,000 lectures delivered across the country, Tao has also consolidated his 10-year experience in agricultural technology and plant protection into popular science posts and online live courses to share with his students. This young and capable specialist has allowed more people to realise that the future of agriculture depends on the training of agricultural talent today.
Tao admitted frankly that during the first four years of work, his goal was quite clear: to achieve better performance and earn more money with plant protection technology. However, this made him neglect the bigger picture. He said it was a result of “position rules mind”, leaving his career limited to product designing and marketing.
In 2011, WeChat became a hit. From 2013, Tao began to use Taobao. The two platforms greatly impacted him. He somehow realised that information was becoming increasingly transparent. Of course, the agricultural supplies industry in northeast China was still troubled by fake goods. Aside from several import companies and large herbicide producers, most suppliers of agricultural pesticides, fungicides, and foliar fertilisers on these platforms were unqualified.
As science and technology keep driving social development, no major change has yet taken place in the agricultural sector. In Tao's words, "the apples grown by farmers still taste the same, and the yield of rice has remained unchanged for ten years." He was suddenly aware that the people engaged in agricultural supplies and plant protection had failed to play their role in empowering farmers. By staying the same, they had become a source of hidden danger. There was only one way out: change.
Encounter with XAG
In 2016, Tao attended a conference in Nanchang, where he encountered the XAG P-Series Plant Protection UAS and Peng Bin, the founder of XAG. After listening to Peng's speech, Tao suddenly realised the broad potential for drones in the agricultural field. He became greatly interested in the new technology and joined several online chat groups to share what he knew about pesticide use and other plant protection technology.
Tao was most impressed by Peng’s understanding of a word: vitality. Our daily lives, societal progress, and economic development all depend on every individual and organisation contribute their vitality. Such vitality comes from people who care to make a difference. We want farmers to apply fewer pesticides, to make crops grow safer, to protect the environment, and to make the countryside more beautiful. All these seem to be the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture, but isn’t this a vision that everyone looks forward to?
As someone who cares and wants to make a difference, this message resonated with Tao. He was convinced that the future belongs to the young, and the future of the industry depends on the development of young talent today. After learning about the XAG Academy, Tao was excited. He came up with a special column where he could write about agricultural skills needed by young people and agriculture enthusiasts. Even today, there are friends in the industry still asking him how much he has earned from XAG. Once, he was blamed by a retail store customer for reducing insecticide use by farmers. To him, improving these values, enhancing service capabilities, and fostering greater environmental awareness are issues that everyone needs to be concerned with.
Tao said, plant protection enabled by UASs has already caused a great impact in the market for agricultural supplies in northeast China, which reflects a transformative change of business models. However, he firmly believes that people with “vitality” can easily address future challenges.
On January 19, 2019, China welcomed the first batch of licensed PCAs. The concept of Pest Control Advisors (PCAs) comes from the US, referring to qualified plant protection experts serving agricultural production. As important human resources for crop health in all areas of agricultural production, they provide comprehensive solutions, and help planters increase output and income. In the US, without PCA recommendations, farmers and social agricultural service organisations are not allowed to buy or use pesticides, which has laid a sound foundation for pesticide use and management.
Tao is among the more than 60 senior PCAs who have passed the licensing exam this time. Although he has been in the industry for more than a decade since 2008, he still recognises the gap between his skills and professional plant protection technicians in developed countries. He said, "Recent years have seen great changes in the agricultural sector. Besides new crop diseases, insect pests and pesticides, new agricultural facilities such as plant protection drones have emerged as well. So, I’d like to continue broadening my horizons to better serve the industry."
Tao mentioned that he really likes XAG’s Future Farm Plan, which reminds him of beautiful farms in California, farmers in plaid shirts and jeans, and cheerful country music. The Plan is a new-concept agricultural demonstration base project launched by XAG together with Bayer and Rural Taobao in June 2018. It intends to engage partners from the global agricultural science and technology field in providing holistic solutions, building high-performance demonstration farms, and practicing safe, environmental and healthy agricultural management. The ultimate goal is to provide consumers with sufficient, safe, reliable and premium food at affordable prices.
In Tao’s imagination, future farms must be equipped with professional technicians who manage the farms and fulfill the duties of PCAs with advanced and comprehensive expertise. With professional skills, scientific thinking, the pursuit of lifelong learning, and the ability to connect with the world, this plant protection specialist at his thirties heralds the promising