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Building the Whole Foods of China

Tony Zhang, farmer and retailer, is expanding his organic empire. Can his luxury offerings improve the country’s food system?

Tony Zhang
Photograph by Eric Gregory Powell

The cavernous packaging floor at Tony Zhang’s flagship Nanhui farm, 40 miles west of his Shanghai headquarters, looks like a set from Barbarella—all plexiglass and stainless steel. Workers wear coveralls, gloves, and hairnets as they spray piles of fresh-picked produce with water from hoses that hang from the ceiling. Other employees in matching jumpsuits hand-dry the fruits and vegetables and place them in bags that bear the motto “Organic Starts From Tony’s Farm.” Across the room, in a glassed-in laboratory, goggled scientists test samples of each crop for bacteria and chemical residues.