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Man postpones graduation to help farmers in NW China's Shaanxi develop potato processing industry

Du Haotian working in his office.

Du Haotian, a postgraduate student at Northwest A&F University in northwest China's Shaanxi province, has helped a township in the province develop its potato industry by introducing new varieties cultivated by his school. Du even postponed his graduation in order to spend more time helping the farmers.

Du, 29, has been offering technical assistance to Xinglong town, Zhenba county of Hanzhong city in the southern part of the province since 2018, after learning that the town, known for its high-quality potatoes, suffered a lack of sales channels, forcing it to sell potatoes at lower prices despite their good quality.

Seeing the situation, Du and his team decided to introduce the university's colored potato seeds to the town, encouraging farmers to plant colored potatoes. However, the colored potatoes didn’t sell well at the beginning as many people had never seen the variety.

To solve the problem, Du and his team started to make potato chips. Du contacted a local workshop but found that it didn’t have the necessary equipment to produce potato chips. However, a manager of the workshop advised him to use the potatoes to make a local snack that was originally made of rice. Taking his advice, they attempted making the snack and eventually succeeded.

Du improved the recipe several times until achieving the best possible taste, then started to bring the products to the market. To his great surprise, Du's team sold 10,000 yuan ($1,540) worth of the snacks in one hour. The success of the processed potato products opened up sales channels for potato growers, making potatoes a cash cow for them.
 
The snack made of colored potatoes

The snack made of colored potatoes

At the end of last year, Du and his team set up a potato processing plant in a village of Xinglong town with the help of the government of Zhenba county, which had ambitions of establishing its own potato processing industry.

The man also proposed postponing his graduation, which was supposed to be in June 2020, for one year, as he had to spend some more time on setting up the production line. His application was approved by his supervisor.

Du Haotian:
 
"My classmates and teachers asked me to think again about my application, but I decided to stay there for another six months."
He did not want to let the local villagers down as he had promised to help them build the plant, he added.

The production line, which is capable of producing 5,000 tons of snacks a year, was put into operation in early 2021. It has lifted the added value of each ton of colored potatoes from (~154.25 USD) 1,000 yuan to (~231.37 USD) 1,500 yuan.

The plant has also created jobs for local villagers. So far, Du and his team have also provided paired assistance to dozens of farmers. Du also plans to start his own business to bring the university-industry model to villages, in order to make his contribution to rural revitalization.
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