Alibaba Cloud touts AI smarts to keep pigs healthy

The Chinese cloud supplier has developed an AI program that has improved the yield and productivity of pig farms

Alibaba Cloud has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) program that monitors the daily activities and health of pigs in a bid to improve the yield of pig farmers in China.

Called the ET Agricultural Brain, the proprietary program, already being used by a number of leading pig farms in China, combines a slew of AI and machine learning technologies to keep pigs healthy.

Voice recognition, for example, is used to detect sick hogs and protect piglets from accidents, while meters collect data to optimise the breeding environment for growth and reduce human errors in the farming process.

Alibaba said its AI program could increase a sow’s annual production by three more newborns and reduce unnatural death by 3%, boosting China’s industry efficiency to be on a par with that of the most advanced pig farming countries.

“China is the world’s largest supplier, consumer and importer of pork. Our business target is to breed 10 million pigs by 2020 – a scale that no ordinary automation system could cope with, let alone a human system,” said Degen Wang, chairman of Tequ Group, a pig farming enterprise based in Sichuan.

Wang added that the ET Agricultural Brain has helped to increase Tequ’s productivity, and potentially improve the company’s supply, sales and logistics chain.

Simon Hu, senior vice-president of Alibaba Group and president of Alibaba Cloud, said more efficient and productive pig farms will help to ensure pork supply and maintain a stable market price that will benefit enterprises and consumers alike in China.

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“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,” he said.

Other early adopters of Alibaba’s AI program include Haisheng Group which operates 55 orchards spanning over 4,000 hectares and Guoqiang Modern Farming, a Shaanxi-based rural cooperative that produces melons.

Outside China, Alibaba Cloud has been aggressively expanding its footprint in recent years. Earlier in March 2018, it opened its first Indonesian datacentre on the heels of similar facilities in Australia, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, UK and the US.

During its 2017 fiscal year, Alibaba Cloud grew the number of paying customers to 874,000, an increase of 70% from the previous year. Besides startups and SMEs, the company has also nabbed large customers in the energy, financial, healthcare, manufacturing, media and retail industries.

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