JINAN/NANCHANG — When Yao Huifeng quit his well-paid job in a medical company to become a rice grower six years ago, he was nicknamed "Yao the idiot."

Now people call him "manager Yao" due to his successful career transition.

From city life to farm work in Yifeng County, east China's Jiangxi Province, Yao has tried various methods for high-quality rice, the only constant being that his produce is organic.

He avoids using chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and leaves the field fallow for a season to guarantee quality, which is what Chinese middle-class consumers now care about most.

His rice sells at 10 yuan (1.45 U.S. dollars) a kilo, three times higher than average, yet still popular.

Last year, his success drew more than 70 local farmers to join his rice cooperative.

"Ninety percent of the local fields have switched to organic rice, and the economic output in our cooperative has exceeded 4 million yuan," Yao told Xinhua.

Organic farming, and eco-farming in a broader sense, is becoming increasingly popular in the world's most populous nation amid growing concerns for food safety.

China has become the world's fourth largest organic food consumer, but organic food penetration is still small, taking up only about 1.5 percent of the country's food market share, according to a report by Zero Power Intelligence Group, a research institution headquartered in Shenzhen.

Lured by the tremendous market potential of green food, companies have rushed into the sector in search of profits.