Former Alibaba chairman Jack Ma dabbles in farming and fisheries after tech crackdown

Ma disappeared from the public eye after a speech in 2020 led to a crackdown on his empire.
Ameya Paleja
File photo of Jack Ma
File photo of Jack Ma

World Economic Forum  

Jack Ma, the founder and former chairman of Chinese tech company Alibaba now holds an investment in an agriculture and fisheries startup, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported. Details about the investment have surfaced through a corporate registry data provider.

Ma, who started his career as an English teacher in 1988, encountered the Internet in 1994 and ventured into several online startups. Although he experienced some initial successes, they paled in comparison to the one he stumbled upon in his apartment in Hangzhou, alongside 18 other friends.

A business-to-business marketplace known as Alibaba, the startup received venture capital funding from investment firms in Japan as well as the US, and Ma went on to set up multiple other firms to make up the Alibaba Group that we know today.

Government Crackdown

After nearly two decades of the group growing from strength to strength, which included listing at the New York Stock Exchange and transaction values exceeding a trillion yuan, Jack Ma decided to step down from executive roles at the group to focus his attention on philanthropic activities through his Foundation.

Speaking at an event in October 2020, Ma criticized the Chinese financial regulatory system and commented that banks were operating with a "pawnshop" mentality. This was followed by a countrywide crackdown on tech firms at large in China and deep scrutiny into businesses he started. An upcoming stock sale from his group was also shelved and Ma disappeared from public view.

Focus on agrotech

A year later, Ma traveled to Spain to learn about agriculture and technologies that could help solve environmental issues, the SCMP report said. In 2022, Ma was seen in the Netherlands learning about sustainable agriculture and earlier this year took trips to Japan and Thailand to study fisheries and farming about tuna and shrimp.

Former Alibaba chairman Jack Ma dabbles in farming and fisheries after tech crackdown
Stock image of fish farms

According to Tianyancha, a corporate data registry data, 1.8 Meters Marine Technology (Zhejiang) Co., a fisheries and agriculture startup, has been established in Hangzhou, with Ma being the driving force behind its creation. The formalities were completed on July 20th and the company will focus on aquatic products, feeding, and processing, as per data shared with the authorities.

1.8 Meters Marine Technology has a seed capital of 110 million yuan (US$15 million) and has listed  Hong Kong-based 1.8 Meters Technology Holding Ltd as its controlling shareholder with an 80 percent stake. Hangzhou Dajingtou No. 22 Arts and Culture Co Ltd, a holding company founded by Ma in 2019 for his investments has a 10 percent stake in the venture while Simon Hu, a former executive at the Ant Group has a 5.5 percent stake, the report said.

Prior reports have suggested that Ma has taken up a teaching job at Tokyo College, which was also focused on sustainable agriculture and food production. Amidst the curiosity about Ma's expertise in this domain, it has become evident that he has been diligently working to create something innovative.