China Using Artificial Intelligence to Monitor Pigs

Tech innovator Alibaba is working with Chinese pork producers to manage pig production with artificial intelligence sensors and video tracking. ( USDA )

As the world’s largest pork producer—and consumer—a wave of new technology is allowing the country to dramatically modernize and increase production efficiency. A new project from tech conglomerate Alibaba could change the game even more.

Alibaba is working with Chinese pig producer Dekon Group and feed manufacturer Tequ Group to develop artificial intelligence systems to track pigs. The deal, announced earlier this month is worth tens of millions of dollars and will rely on video monitoring to replace radio-frequency ID (RFID) tags.

The cameras will identify and track numbers tattooed on the animals’ bodies. At the very basic level, it will count pigs, but Alibaba is planning for additional analysis, such as temperature readings from infrared sensors, how much individual pigs move per day and monitor disease spread by recording the sounds of pigs coughing.

The intended result? Lower production costs, and “safe, tasty pork,” says Zhang Sheng with Alibaba.

The advancement of technology in agriculture is leap frogging. Cargill recently started testing facial recognition for dairy and beef cows. Blue River Technology’s See and Spray can detect and identify weeds in the field, spraying one and avoiding another.