The Bottom Line.
As the Head of Communication and Studies at the Comité France-Chine – a major actor in the Franco-Chinese economic relation – Eleonore William is an expert on French-Sino relations In this China business insight, she analyses the Tongwei Group’s diversification approach, from aquaculture to solar energy. While the Group has historically been a giant in the marine food industry, it is progressively investing in new technologies and know-how, so at to become a leading player in China’s growing solar power sector. For more, make sure to read our China business insights.
Tongwei: From aquaculture to solar energy production.
[By Eléonore William]
Founded in 1984 to produce food for aquatic farms in the Sichuan province, the Tongwei Group has eventually become a top player in Chinese aquaculture and new energies industries.
The Group is Ranked 75th among the top 500 private companies for 2017 according to the National Federation of Industry and Commerce of China (FNICC), and it has reached an RMB 56 billion (7.4 billion EUR) turnover in 2016. The Group employs over 30,000 people in approximately 170 subsidiaries and branches, including Tongwei Co. Ltd, a subsidiary listed on the Shanghai stock exchange since March 2004.
The Group is also the world’s leading producer of aquaculture nutrients and a Chinese leader in solar photovoltaic energy. In fact, Tongwei is openly showing its ambition to modernize the Chinese sector by adopting new technologies and developing a model integrating fish farming and floating photovoltaic.
Tongwei: China’s aquaculture top player.
Among its objectives, Tongwei aims to become the global aquaculture reference supplier and to eventually compete with the world leader (external link), the Thai Charoen Pokphand. Hence, it has opted for a vertical integration business model.
The Group is originally specialized in the industrial production of aquaculture nutrients – an area in which the company captures over 20% of the national market. However, it also has significant expertise in the field of on-farm farming, as well as in the distribution of fish and shrimp. In fact, the integration of the entire value chain has enabled the Group to increase its downstream anchorage, where operating margins are higher.
All in all, Tongwei’s development is based on its ability to generally reduce the operating costs of its farms by producing its own feed, fry and antibiotics, and on its territorial anchorage with fish farmers, which enables it to have unparalleled knowledge of the market.
Tongwei’s strategy is not isolated, however. It matches the wave of consolidation of the entire Chinese aquaculture sector – in which growth is increasingly driven by research & development as well as by environmentally-sustainable profitability.
The group aims to revolutionize the industry by leveraging the Internet of Things, cloud computing and metadata through its subsidiary Tongwei Automation Co. In reality, Tongwei has significantly improved the efficiency of its fish farms by introducing computerized real-time feeding and monitoring systems, thus improving factors such as water quality or temperature in the ponds.
In the aquaculture sector, the Group is also expanding internationally by multiplying investments and partnerships. The goal is straightforward: accelerate its upscale strategy and strengthen its production and sales capacity.
Hence, in 2015, Tongwei has joined forces with the Danish BioMar Group to create a joint venture for the exploitation of high value-added products. The giant currently owns seven food production sites outside China, representing RMB 6 billion (EUR 0.8 billion), or 8% of the assets of Tongwei Co.
Furthermore, in addition to its long-standing presence in the countries of Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh), the Group has also developed a strong potential in terms of sales and aquaculture production on the African continent.
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Tongwei on a diversification path with solar energy.
In parallel to its marine activities, the Group has developed an expertise in relation to marine photovoltaic solar energy since 2006. Complementary to fish farming (and supported by government renewable energy incentives), this new business line indeed enables it to deploy solar panels on its agricultural and aquaculture fields, thus killing two birds with one stone.
Tongwei’s move makes part of an external growth strategy. In 2008, it acquired Yongxiang, a polycrystalline silicon specialist, and in 2013 Saiwei Solar Energy, a company dedicated to the manufacture of photovoltaic modules. These acquisitions have enabled the Group to be present in all phases of solar energy production by developing a unique floating photovoltaic model and by installing solar parks on breeding ponds.
Recent investments made through its subsidiaries in Hefei and Chengdu have further strengthened its position as a national reference supplier in terms of both capacity and quality of solar energy production.
The Group also operates a diversification with pet food production, construction, and real estate.
By implementing a “For a better life” philosophy, the giant works towards making its activities more sustainable whilst offering healthier food and producing energy that respects the planet with photovoltaics.
This article was originally published as ‘Tongwei, de l’aquaculture à la production d’énergie photovoltaïque’ in La Lettre de La Chine Hors Les Murs, #24, by the French External Trade Advisors (Comite National des Conseillers du Commerce Exterieur).
Eleonore William | China Expert Contributor
Expert in China – France economic relations, Eleonore William is Head of Communication and Studies at the France China Committee, a major actor in the Franco-Chinese economic relation, gathering French enterprises active with China in the long-term.
Former Manager of the technical cooperation with China and with Sub-saharan Africa for the French ministries of Economy and Finance, Eleonore William has a 15 years experience as a specialist in business development, institutional and international relations and as an observer and analyst of China political and economic evolutions.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of their author(s) only and do not reflect those of The Asia-Pacific Circle or of its editors unless otherwise stated.
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