Shunned as an invasive species, crayfish are becoming a popular delicacy and a major revenue source for farmers.
Fu Hailin, 34, living in Pengze county in Jiangxi province, is one of them.
Fu started breeding crayfish in 2016, when he heard some villagers in Pengze were making a fortune. Fu quit his job as a wall painter in Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, rented about 80 mu (5.33 hectares) land and made over 200,000 yuan ($29,072) in the first year running crayfish breeding business, doubling his income.
Moreover, as he was living his home village, his expenses too came down. "Besides, I get to take care of my children and parents," Fu added.
"I didn't expect breeding crayfish to bring such a change in my life. I re-built our house in 2017, bought a car in 2019, and started side businesses of managing agritainment businesses as the growing crayfish industry in the (Pengze) county is attracting food lovers from nearby cities," Fu said.
In addition to attracting food lovers from surrounding areas, the booming crayfish breeding industry has also attracted investors from across the country.
Qian Guangrong and his son moved from Anhui province to Pengze in Jiangxi in 2010 and rented nearly 80 mu land for crayfish breeding. In 2017, they expanded their breeding base to about 500 mu.
"The environment, including pond and related infrastructure, weather and water, is ideal for crayfish breeding. We were also doing crayfish breeding in Anhui but it was not that successful," Qian said.
Last year, Qian and his son raised over 1.2 million yuan from breeding crayfish. They also helped over 10 local families to get rid of poverty by teaching them how to breed and sell crayfish.
Now Pengze has developed an industry cluster on crayfish, including breeding, processing, cooking, selling, and tourism.
Both Fu and Qian's crayfish are sold to a local processing zone set up by Jiujiang Kairui Ecology and Farming Development Co Ltd. The processing zone started construction in 2019 with an investment of 460 million yuan.
The zone started operation in May and is expected to see an annual output of 720 million yuan.
Buoyed by growing demand of eating crayfish in winter, another company in Pengze, named Pengze Kaichen Agriculture Technology Co Ltd, is harnessing its technology to breed crayfish in winter to fill the market gap.
"The crayfish industry cluster in Pengze is helpful for our company's development, and we are betting big on the industry's future," Li Yunfeng, head of the company, said.