- The viability of pig rearing in China has been threatened by the rapid spread of swine fever
- Chinese technology firms may have found a solution with smart farming technology
Almost one-third of China’s pig herds have been wiped out by swine fever or culling as a result of the disease since August 2018. China’s 440 million pigs make up more than half of the pigs globally.
The outbreak has spread to neighbouring countries such as Mongolia, Cambodia and Vietnam. Swine flu is deadly for almost all animals it infects and there is currently no vaccine or treatment, making it disastrous for farming communities in affected areas.
Chinese technology companies, including multinational Alibaba, have come up with a possible solution. They say they have technology that can detect disease early by listening for coughing piglets. This technology should also reduce labour costs.
Seventy percent of Chinese farmers who raise pigs have said the current techniques used in pig rearing will not be financially sustainable within the next 10 years. The new technology has the potential to turn that around.
With real-time monitoring, Alibaba’s artificial intelligence technology will assist farmers in monitoring their pigs through visual and voice recognition devices. The software is said to be much more sensitive than a human observer’s senses. It should pick up a sick piglet at a much faster rate than humans can by listening for coughs and using infrared temperature readings. This early detection mechanism could reduce the rapid spread of the disease. It can also recommend a recovery option, based on the piglet’s condition.
The artificial intelligence can also be used to detect how many piglets belong to each sow, how they were born and for how many hours they sleep. The technology will essentially be able to determine how happy a pig is by using a connected toy and observing how the pig interacts with the toy in its environment.
Alibaba says the technology can work for the full lifecycle of a pig. Artificial intelligence will not only prevent the spread of disease but also increase the efficiency of animal supervision and enhance the well-being of the pigs, all while reducing costs, according to Alibaba.
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