A total of eight tonnes of Goji berries can be processed every day in Chang Ta-chuang's plant in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Most of the berries will enter the markets in Taiwan.
Well-known for its nutrient value, the Goji berry, also called wolfberry, has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine and cuisine. Eating a moderate amount of Goji berry is good for the kidneys, liver and lungs, as well as eyesight and nerves.
Goji berry is the main product at Chang's plant, which located in Zhongning County, one of the major Goji berry producing areas in China. The processed fruit is an indispensable ingredient for soup in Taiwan.
"But Ningxia is a strange name for most people in Taiwan," said Chang, who came to the region in 2013.
"Many friends of mine thought that I rode a camel to work," the 52-year-old said.
He believed Ningxia was desolate and underdeveloped, but his view was completely changed after arrival - afforestation in the city is well-developed, roads are flat and wide, the environment has been well-protected and tourism is burgeoning.
Chang worked for a LED cable assembly manufacturer in the city of Dongguan, in south China's Guangdong Province in 2005. The company shut down in 2013 due to impacts of the financial crisis.
"Lives cannot continue without agricultural and sideline products. I understand that it is a more sustainable industry," said Chang, who decided to join in a time-honored company in Taiwan and headed to the subsidiary in Ningxia in 2013.
Different from the warm and moist weather in southern China, winters in the northwestern regions are cold and dry. Chang said he had to keep his humidifier running all day.
He had to get accustomed to eating Muslim food as one-fifth of the residents in the county are Hui ethnic minority. He opened a halal canteen for his employees.
"Weather and food are no longer problems. I can even speak the local dialect when bargaining with vendors in the market," Chang said.
Over the past five years, Chang learned the minutiae of the Goji berry processing, from sieving and grading to color sorting and packing.
His company has exploited 28 types of products including pumpkin seeds, chrysanthemum and other traditional Chinese medicine herbs, with an annual export value of 25 million U.S. dollars.
Besides Taiwan, products are exported to European and American countries.
Chang's company is already a leading export company in Ningxia.
There's a great need for Goji berry in Taiwan, at least 5,000 tonnes every year, according to Chang, saying that adequate sunshine, a large temperature difference between day and night, dry weather and fewer pests lead to the high-quality Goji berries grown in Zhongning.
So far, Chang's company has worked with a dozen cooperatives in the region to purchase their Goji berries.
"We encourage those cooperatives to grow organic Goji berries or other products we need, and we'd like to buy them at 10 percent above other ordinary products," Chang said.
"Based on customers' demands, we hope we can bring more 'green' agricultural products to Taiwan," he said.
Besides natural advantages, Chang said that the local government has provided a series of preferential policies, helping his company expand and develop.
Those policies, including land fees subsidies, refunding export taxes, and transportation expense subsidies, benefit him, as well as other enterprises in the region.
"The export inspection and quarantine has become much easier since an inspection and quarantine administration set up in the county. About 90 percent of our products will be examined here in Zhongning and exported directly, instead of receiving inspection in south China's Guangzhou Port," said Chang.
He said the next thing his company will do is turn its attention to the Chinese mainland. "The mainland market is huge, and the business climate has improved. Consumption in the mainland has upgraded, and mainland customers are increasingly willing to pay for high-quality products."
He believes that the mainland will be a great platform to attract more people from Taiwan to start up business in the future.
So far, Ningxia has attracted 48 Taiwan enterprises, covering a wide range of fields including real estate, new energy, agriculture, tourism and dairy.