Like humans, pigs have idiosyncratic faces, and new players in the Chinese pork market are taking notice, experimenting with increasingly sophisticated versions of facial recognition software for pigs. China is the world's largest exporter of pork, and is set to increase production next year by 9%. As the nation's pork farms grow in scale, more farmers are turning to AI systems like facial recognition technology – known as FRT – to continuously monitor, identify, and even feed their herds. This automated style of farming has the potential to be safer, cheaper and generally more effective: In 2018, pig farmers in China's Guangxi province trialling FRT found that it slashed costs, cut down on breeding time, and improved welfare outcomes for the pigs themselves. But it also has the potential to leave behind independent, small-scale farmers, who cannot afford to introduce this kind of technology to their operations.
Agriculture is set to become'smarter' with digitisation and new technologies such as facial recognition for animals promising to provide the sector with greater control over its processes. Dr. Venkat Maroju, Chief Executive Officer of'SourceTrace' a provider of software solutions to the agriculture and allied sectors, said that digital technologies have an "enormous potential" to impact agriculture in several aspects by enabling farmers, on the one hand, to produce more while at the same time reducing the environmental impact of agricultural production. "Digital technology comes with several solutions to make this happen from farm management and traceability to certification and market linkage," he said. In September, itelligence AG the SAP software and technologies services company in partnership with the German Technical University OWL and HARTING Foundation & Co. KG a provider of industrial interconnection technology announced the launch of HARTING MICA . This is a system designed to enable the most efficient method of farming a given acreage of wheat using data collected via sensors from the soil, agricultural machinery and satellite images.
Late autumn is the time for making lap yuk, a type of preserved pork that is a local speciality, and across town I would often spot slabs of meat hanging from high-rise apartment balconies, tied up with string and swaying next to shirts and sheets left out to dry. To make lap yuk, a piece of raw pork belly is soaked in a blend of rice wine, salt, soy sauce and spices, then hung out to cure in the damp, cold autumn air. The fat becomes translucent and imparts a savoury-sweet taste to any stir-fried vegetable dish. A relative of mine claims that only southern China can make preserved pork like this. The secret is the native spores and bacteria that are carried on the wind there. Guangzhou was the first stop on a journey I was taking in order to try to understand how artificial intelligence is transforming China's pork industry. The country is the world's largest producer of pork, and the story of how it has ramped up production in recent years to feed its growing middle class is sometimes described as "China's pork miracle".
The scene in your mind's eye is likely set in a rural area with farmhands doing back-breaking work. Hundreds of pigs are raised together, perhaps in a cramped space: they eat, they sleep, they play, they breed; and when the time comes, they are sent to the slaughterhouse by the truckload. But the nature of pig farms is changing in China. Some of the country's biggest names in the tech industry–Alibaba, JD–are lining up to become disruptors of this traditional business. In late 2017, Laozhang's family pig farm in a Beijing suburb received an unusual group of visitors--20 engineers from JD Finance's artificial intelligence (AI) department.
Since April, the coronavirus has been detected in American mink, like the one pictured, at 17 fur farms in the Netherlands, leading to the culling of more than 500,000. One of the world's top mink-producing countries is shutting down the industry as a result of COVID-19. Two findings--rising rates of infection among mink at Dutch fur farms and the discovery that the animals may have transmitted the virus to two farm employees--have forced the Netherlands to speed up existing plans for ending its mink industry in 2024. On Tuesday, parliament voted to cease mink breeding imminently and provide compensation to fur farmers. The timeline for the updated closure has not been determined, nor has the rate of compensation due to producers, but animal welfare groups expect the shutdown will occur by the end of the year.