Bringing home the bacon: Alibaba brings AI platform to pig farming
alibaba brings ai platform to pig farming in china

Bringing home the bacon: Alibaba brings AI platform to pig farming

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has officially launched an agricultural AI platform, ET Agricultural Brain, to allow farmers to better monitor, understand, and react to the needs of their livestock and crops.

Alibaba Cloud’s AI technology is already being deployed in projects ranging from smart cities to transportation and aviation. The move into agriculture represents a step into what Simon Hu, president of Alibaba Cloud, describes as “a strategic sector [that] matters to the lives of millions across China.”

Applying AI to pig farming

Alibaba has already trialled its AI technology with pig farmers across China. Visual recognition, voice recognition, and real-time environmental monitoring have all been deployed on its platform to gather individual data on each hog’s daily movements, as well as analysing growth indicators, pregnancies, and other health-related matters.

On top of giving farmers more livestock insights and actionable data, Alibaba’s machine learning algorithms can automatically prescribe a workout plan for hogs to improve overall health and yield. The system, Alibaba claims, can improve farmers’ output by detecting sick pigs before illness spreads or becomes fatal.

Internet of Business says

As the world’s largest supplier and consumer of pork, China certainly stands to benefit from Alibaba’s move into agriculture. The company estimates use of the ET Agricultural Brain could increase a sow’s annual production by three more newborns and lower the rate of early mortality by three percent – yet more RMB in the national piggy bank.

While vegetarians and animal rights activists will blanche at the concept, the standard metric by which pork production is measured is ‘pigs per sow per year’ (PSY). Alibaba’s AI brings that figure to 32, which would put the nation’s pig farming efficiency on a par with anywhere else in the world.

“Alibaba Cloud’s ET Agricultural Brain brings a new level of interactive automation to pig farming,” said Degen Wang, chairman of farming enterprise, Tequ Group. His company aims to breed 10 million pigs by 2020, which represents “a scale that no ordinary automation system could cope with, let alone a human system”.

“ET Agricultural Brain leads the way to the true industrialisation of pig farming, helping us increase productivity, manage the farm more effectively, and potentially upgrade the whole supply, sales, and logistics chain using Alibaba’s ecosystem,” he added.

Hu, president of Alibaba Cloud, reiterated his company’s desire to push AI technology into new sectors. “We are committed to using our world-class technology to solve real-life problems,” he said.

“We believe enhanced operating efficiency will help ensure pork supply and maintain a stable market price that will benefit enterprises and consumers alike in China.

“In the future, ET Agricultural Brain can be adopted across many other sectors, including forestry and fisheries, helping enterprises and individual farmers increase efficiency and improve quality of production and providing a greener and healthier option for consumers.”