A World Where Everybody is a Farmer
The story of a CEO striving to bring agriculture back into our lives
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Food, clothes, and housing are considered the three essentials, the most basic factors of life. Kim Hye-yeon (Department of Electronics and Communications Engineering, 04’), the CEO of N.Thing, argues that among them, food is the most important. “It’s a matter of fact that we can still survive without clothing or housing. But as for food, people can’t last very long without it.” There, a question was posed to Kim. With such dependency on food as a means for survival, why is no one these days willing to become farmers? Indeed, it is rare to see someone in the present day, dreaming of becoming a farmer. In fact, the percentage of farmers in Korea has decreased to less than 5% of the population. Kim’s solution to this rather contradictive situation was the company N.Thing. Created to increase public accessibility to farming, Kim explained his grand plan in great detail.
The company name, N.Thing, refers to the n number of "things," or challenges that the firm plans to pursue in the future. Its futuristic tendencies clearly show that the company experiments with the latest technology, most notably Internet of Things (IoT), to fulfill its goals of revolutionizing every inch of the agriculture industry. N.Thing started off as a small start-up project among a group of friends, led by Kim during his undergraduate years. Their first product was a smart flowerpot by the name of Planty. It was a planter that could be connected to a smartphone, which would inform the user of the various conditions of the plant such as temperature, humidity, and air pressure. It could even be used to water the plant remotely. “Though the big picture of the firm and its plans were etched in my mind, the limited resources available at the time could only allow us to take such small steps,” answered Kim. Now, the firm has expanded to the scale of smart farms, integrating technology and farming on a scale and depth which has never been done before. Kim added that his ultimate goal was to create the first farm on Mars, a vision he hopes to achieve by the year 2020.
To delve into the specific details of Kim’s business, the firm currently works to create a more efficient ecosystem for farming. Although their main products and services focus on providing the technological tools and data needed to reach the optimal productivity of farms, the company also makes an effort to change the organizational structure of current farms. The traditional structure leaves every process up to the farmers: the decision of which crops to plant, the entire farming process, and even the sale of their crops. Kim believed that this structure itself was inadequate and inefficient. First, it should be the consumers who place orders for the crops to be planted, thereby allowing people to take a bigger role in the agriculture industry. Furthermore, after the growing and harvesting of the crops, farmers should not have to deal with business interactions. In the same manner that mobile games are easily available to consumers via applications, publishing channels for farming should be developed to create higher accessibility to the public. With developments in each of these stages underway, N.Thing is devoted to creating an environment where everyone can take part in farming, thus becoming farmers.
In the process of pioneering a new field of agriculture, various difficulties naturally followed. However, Kim answered that there was no single striking memory of hardship. “Of course it was hard. Dealing with people, money, and regulations, nothing came easily. But I never dwelled on an issue more than was necessary. It was always just a natural part of building a company." Emphasizing the importance of individual perspectives, Kim answered that for him, an element of excitement was innate in every past obstacle. Furthermore, the hardships always led him to a valuable relationship with someone who helped him out of the ditch. Kim did, however, underline the intensity of the stress of leading a company. “Having worked in a company under a supervisor, I can confidently say that the mental pressure of leading one far surpasses the stress from simply working in one." As a result of his experience, Kim confessed that he never indulges other people to pursue entrepreneurship. “Rather, as entrepreneurship is closer to a lifestyle, people with the calling will naturally make the choices to that path."
Life prior to entrepreneurship
According to Kim, he had the dream of starting his own company as a high school student. Back then, he had a deep interest in web development, and had even managed the website for his school. In addition, he made a school club in which they would circle the local shops in the area and offer to design a website for them. In return, they would receive a small amount of money. In a sense, this was his first step in the field of startups. Hoping to meet a wider scope of talented people, he set foot in Hanyang University, a school he was drawn to for its deep devotion to technological advancement. There he achieved his initial goal, having met the people he now runs a company with. As he recounted his years as a university student, Kim confessed that he had been a bit of an outlier. Devoted to his belief that life should be a pursuit of his desires, he took many classes irrelevant to his department and increased interaction with people from other majors, which later on profoundly helped him manage his company. Adhering to his motto, he also took up jobs in entertainment, trend analysis, entrepreneurship, and agriculture. He added that where he stood now was a result of connecting the dots of his past experiences.
As a word of advice for Hanyang students, Kim emphasized the importance of trial and error. “Though I had followed my passion, I always felt worried about straying from what was “normal.” Everyone around me was focusing on their grades, qualification exams, and employment. It took immense courage for me to break free from that frame." However, it was due to this transcendence that Kim was able to get to where he is now. In the same sense, Kim urged students of Hanyang to get out and try something they find the smallest hint of interest in. According to Kim, if something is given thought for too long, it will never lead to action. As the societal position of a university student is a very safe and stable one, it is easy to fall into this pattern. Kim’s advice is to get started on the exact day of the inspiration. “It’s kind of like playing golf. At first you swing hard towards the green, and then work on getting the ball in the hole. If you focus too much about getting the ball in from the start, you’ll never make the first swing."
Lee Chang-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Lee Jin-myung
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