China is the world’s largest pork consumer, with pork consumption reaching a record 57 million tons in 2014 — that’s more than half of all global pork consumption.
Keeping track of the country’s estimated 700 million pigs is quite difficult for farmers. They need to monitor the hogs’ state of health, detect sick hogs, and ensure that sick pigs don’t pass their illnesses on to the rest of the population.
Chinese farmers currently use RFID tags clipped to the animals’ ears
But this can be expensive and farmers don’t always find the time to fit each pig with a tag and scan them. Also, the tags provide only very basic information about the pigs’ locations and can’t tell the farmers anything about the animals’ health.
Enter Alibaba’s artificial intelligence-powered “ET Brain” to monitor pig populations
Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce company, is now using artificial intelligence technologies and smart sensors to monitor each hog’s activity and state of health. To create the technology, Alibaba has teamed up with pig farming corporation Dekon Group and pig feed manufacturer Tequ Group.
Instead of sporting an RFID tag, each pig in this new system is tattooed with an ID number. Overhead cameras use machine-vision technology to track the movement of each pig. The system also analyzes that information with infrared temperature readings to detect sick hogs.