By Jair Martinez
Artificial intelligence technology has been developed to help piglets survive their first months, and to decide which sows to kill. The scheme is taking place in China, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of pork. It marks the latest deployment of tech giant Alibaba’s ET Brain cloud computing service. China’s pig industry is notoriously inefficient, but one expert said this tech could also prove useful elsewhere.
For now, the trial is limited to the country’s Sichuan province. Alibaba teamed up with local feed provider Sichuan Tequ and the farming group Dekon to develop the solution. It claims that it should on average lead a sow to rear three additional offspring a year, and reduce the death rate by three percent. The system is designed to maintain a profile of each animal, including details of their weight, age, food intake, exercise, and other details.
Tequ’s CIO stressed that taking care of pigs is no easy task for large pig farms. “If you have 10 million pigs, relying on manpower is already not enough,” he said, according to a report by local publication. Tianxia Wangshang, adding that it’s impossible to manually count each pig given how many are born every day.
Many types of software are used to gather all this data/information. Vision recognition software, which relies on a number tattooed onto each swine’s side, is used to keep track of each pig. The sounds of their squeals are analysed to try to determine if any of the young ones are at risk of being suffocated under their mothers’ weight. The AI tech also listens for coughs, which along with infrared temperature readings, are used to act as an early warning system for disease outbreaks. This should help farmers know when to provide specialized vaccinations. All this in hopes that this technology can improve China’s pig industry.