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article imageChinese pig farmers using AI to create China's 'pork miracle'

By Ken Hanly     Feb 16, 2018 in Technology
In China pig-rearing used to be a predominantly a backyard operation. The etymology of the word "home" in Chinese means literally a "house with a pig in it". That is now all changed.
China's "pork miracle"
Since the nineteen eighties China has been modernizing its pork industry and upped production. China now has some 700 million pigs, half of the world population, most on huge farms. To manage such huge numbers China is turning to new technology including artificial intelligence (AI).
AI and pig farming
The Chinese tech giant Alibaba has signed a deal with the pig feed manufacturer Tequ Group and Chinese farming corporation Dekon Group worth tens of millions of dollars
Alibaba Group Holdiings Limited is a huge Chinese multinational e-commerce, retail, Internet, AI and technology conglomerate. As of January 2018, the market cap of Alibaba was $527 billion US. It is one of the 10 most valuable companies in the world.
The aim of the project is to develop a pig-tracking system powered by AI. At present RFID wireless radio frequency tags are used but they are expensive and time-consuming to manage. Each RFID has to be fitted to each pig and scanned individually to track them.
Tequ Group's chief information officer Zhang Haifeng said: “If you have 10 million pigs to raise, you can barely count how many piglets were born on a daily basis when the due date comes.” The existing system causes real bottlenecks.
The AI solution
Machine vision technology is used to identify numbers tattooed onto the pigs' bodies using overhead cameras. The system will be able to count pigs and piglets but it is hoped to also provide more sophisticated analysis.
The system will be able to combine temperature readings from infrared cameras with data on how much each pig moves every day. This will enable the system to estimate the health of each animal. There will be voice recognition as well which can monitor such sounds as pigs coughing.
Zhang Sheng of Alibaba said:“On one hand, we hope to bring down husbandry costs and achieve agricultural reform. On the other hand, we’d like to translate AI technology into safe, tasty pork.”
As the Chinese population demands more and more pork, pig farming will need to become more automated and efficient. AI could be a crucial part of this process. The appended video shows a Chinese pig farm.
More about Artificial intelligence, China, Chinese pork production
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