Student startups set to surge as 'digital natives' drive innovation
Song Zhuochen (left) talks with a farmer to get feedback on a smart device designed by his team that monitors the daily routines and health of sheep. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Sheep and success
Song Zhuochen's entrepreneurship journey began with a poverty alleviation program initiated by his school, Xidian University in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province.
His team has developed a device that uses a chip and smart fences to monitor the daily routines and health of sheep, sending alerts to owners via a smartphone app when abnormalities are detected.
By recording the amount of milk each ewe can produce, the device can identify those with the highest yields.
Song became involved in the program in his first year at university in 2018, and he started traveling to two townships in Shaanxi's Pucheng county because the university was investing its resources to assist in the eradication of absolute poverty.
He has spent lots of time and energy on the program. Traveling to the townships from Xi'an takes more than four hours, and he visits several times a month.
To ensure that the program would be successful, Song suspended his studies in 2020 and devoted all his attention to the program.
He conducted a great deal of research in the university laboratory, and whenever he made progress, he brought the device to the sheepfold for testing.
His efforts paid off: 120 households in the townships have participated in the program and started raising sheep. As a result, each household's annual income has risen by 12,000 yuan ($1,710).
Currently a senior undergraduate in intelligent science and technology, Song will undertake postgraduate studies in computer science at Xidian, starting in September.
He hopes that the rights to his device will be bought by a major farm or dairy company, so it will benefit more people.
In the future, Song said he wants to continue making the device better and more profitable.
"Although becoming a coder or working for an information technology company in a big city can bring in a decent salary, I would very much like to continue my work in the villages and around the sheep," he said. "The vast rural areas can be the places where graduates can make the most of what they have learned at university."
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