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Chinese internet giants apply AI to pig farming

(People's Daily Overseas New Media)    16:57, January 08, 2019

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On April Fool’s Day 2018, Chinese tech giant Tencent launched an AI goose farm project, which the company claimed would reshape the agricultural industrial ecology.

It was not a practical joke. In fact, AI technology is becoming a trend for China’s internet giants in their march toward the agricultural field.

Specifically, pig farming is the “new cake” that many internet giants have set their eyes on.

Netease, nicknamed “pig farm,” is China’s pioneer internet company for raising pigs, which started its pig farming enterprise in 2009. It even has a full list of music designed specifically for pigs, and the company boasts itself for the traceability and high quality of its pigs.

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Meanwhile, Alibaba has developed an agricultural management system, known as “ET brain,” which is able to identify the pregnant sows. The algorithm is data collection from sows’ standing and sleeping postures to how much sows eat, in order to better analyze their pregnancy and health conditions.

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The newborn piglets can also take advantage of the image and voice identification technologies to instantly reflect their health condition individual earrings record each pig’s weight, feeding, even exercise intensity, frequency and tracks.

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Also, in cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, JD applied pig facial recognition technology in 1,692 China’s experimental pig farms to identify pigs for better farm management. The whole AI system successfully increase the reproduction rate of sows and reduce the death rate of piglets. The AI pig raising system will be installed in many pig farms in China in 2019, according to a JD spokesperson.

Beyond technology application, what do these tech giants want from agriculture? The answer is profits.

The end goal is to improve reproductive performance of sows and thus increase the incomes of pig farmers.

Pork consumption in China reached 54.87 million tonnes in 2017, accounting for 49.6% of total consumption, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

PSY, or pigs per sow per year, is one of the most important indicators of pork production. China’s average PSY is 15, compared to US’ 25, meaning a sow in China produces on average 10 piglets less than a sow in the United States. Additionally, the cost of raising pigs in China is twice as much as in the US. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Miao Wanyi, Bianji)

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