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Jack Ma Turns to Farming, Invests in Agrotech Start-Up; His Net Worth Took a Hit Following China Tech Crackdown

The venture fits Ma’s keen interest in the agriculture and food sector which he has been exploring in the recent past since he retired from Alibaba.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images |  Andrew Burton
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Andrew Burton

After three years of disappearance from the public eye, former Alibaba chairman Jack Ma has turned to farm tech. He has invested in a fishery and agriculture startup in China, reported South China Morning Post. Ma kept a low profile since 2020 after triggering a government crackdown on the Chinese tech industry with his comments on the financial system.

Ma is back in the headlines after investing in 1.8 Meters Marine Technology (Zhejiang) Co, the newly incorporated start-up in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province and the home of Alibaba. One of Ma's investment holdings firms, Hangzhou Dajingtou No. 22 Arts and Culture Co., has acquired a 10 percent equity stake in the start-up. Also, Simon Hu, the former chief executive of Ant Group, which Ma co-founded, owns a 5.5 percent stake in the start-up.


What is the new company about?

1.8 Meters Marine Technology (Zhejiang) Co. deals with aquatic products, feeding, and processing. It also covers wholesale and retail sales of agriculture products as well as the development of offshore wind power systems.


The company was incorporated on July 20 with a registered capital of 110 million yuan ($15 million), as per the corporate registry data provider Tianyancha. The venture fits Ma’s keen interest in the agriculture and food sector which he has been exploring in the recent past since he retired from Alibaba.

Several reports had claimed that Ma had gone missing soon after making a controversial speech in October 2020. He allegedly angered the Chinese authorities with his criticism of China's financial regulatory system. In the speech, he claimed that Chinese banks were operating with a "pawnshop" mentality. His speech allegedly prompted intense regulatory scrutiny of his businesses and a broader government crackdown on tech firms in China.


Ma, who co-founded the Ant Group, the fintech giant which he no longer controls was reportedly asked to lay low following the controversial remarks. During the crackdown, Chinese regulators pulled the plug on Ant’s $37 billion IPO, which was slated for November 2020. The regulators further ordered the company to restructure its business. However, in recent years, Ma has reportedly spent time in Japan and has started a new gig as a visiting professor at a Tokyo university.


What is Jack Ma’s net worth in 2023?

Once the richest person in Asia, Ma’s fortune has been slashed to half since his disappearance. His net worth peaked in 2020 at $61.2 billion, according to Bloomberg but it has now fallen to $31.6 billion. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index projected that the business mogul’s wealth fell by $4.1 billion over the past year, due to a massive fall in the valuation of Ant Group.  

Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Wang He
Image Source: Wang He/Getty Images

What is Jack Ma up to now?

After stepping down as Alibaba chairman in 2019, Ma no longer holds any corporate roles at the company. Following his speech in 2020, he kept an extremely low profile but in the past couple of years, he reportedly made several international trips to learn about sustainable food production.

Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by VCG
Image Source: VCG/Getty Images

He has made trips to Japan where he spent time studying fisheries and tuna farming. He also traveled to Thailand where he visited a sea shrimp farming factory. In July 2022, Ma was in the Netherlands to learn about sustainable food production, which was a follow-up to his previous European tour that he took to further his interest in agriculture.

Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Wang He
Image Source: Wang He/Getty Images

Ma holds the post of a visiting professor at Tokyo College, where he is researching sustainable agriculture and food production, according to an announcement made by the school in June 2023.