Alibaba Is Using AI to Help Chinese Farmers Keep Track of Pigs
China has a huge population, the largest in the world. The population is still growing, which means, the country must find a way to continue feeding citizens sufficiently. It’s not easy, which is why artificial intelligence is being used on Chinese farms to help keep porn on the menu.
Before the 1980s, Chinese pig farming was viewed as nothing special. However, the country has managed to modernize its pig farming to feed a growing middle class, and guess what? These days, around half of the world’s pigs live and die in China.
We understand that number is somewhere around 700 million pigs per year, and the majority meet their end on huge farms across the country. The entire thing is becoming difficult to handle, therefore, the government is moving to help farms use AI to make for smoother and faster production of pork.
Who else but Alibaba
The tech giant behind this porky move is no other than China’s Google and Amazon equivalent, Alibaba. According to a report from Synced, the company is working with farming corporation Dekon Group and pig feed manufacturer Tequ Group in a bid to deploy pig tracking systems.
Synced says the deal is worth millions of dollars, though a hard number was not given. Now, here’s what’s going to happen. Wireless radio frequency tags (RFID) will be replaced in favor of machine vision to follow pigs on farms.
Now, this change has nothing to do with RFID tags being unreliable because they are not. It’s all about the expense of deploying these tags and how time-consuming they are to manage. You see, RFID tags must be fitted manually to each pig, and scanned individually for tracking.
With farms China raising millions of pigs each year, it becomes a real challenge to fit these tags on each animal on a regular basis.
“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,” said Tequ Group’s chief information officer, Zhang Haifeng.
Machine vision relies on cameras
Here’s the thing, some might not know this, but machine vision must make use of several overhead cameras to get the job done properly. At the basic level, this new system will have the ability to count pigs and piglets without problems, but Alibaba is hoping for more sophistication in the future.
The AI behind this technology should be able to deliver information on the health of each pig, and voice recognition technology could one day alert farmers of when a piglet is being crushed by its mother.
“On one hand, we hope to bring down husbandry costs and achieve agricultural reform,” said Alibaba’s Zhang Sheng, reports Chinese news agency Xinhua. “On the other hand, we’d like to translate AI technology into safe, tasty pork.”