The New Frontier For AI—In China; At Least In Pig Farming


Wednesday, March 06, 2019   06.15AM / By AngelList, header Image Credit: Anthill Magazine


In August 2018, the Chinese government released a report praising the trend of “Smart pig raising,” highlighting the need for the pork industry to embrace the “ABCDs,” which naturally, stand for Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain Technology, Cloud Computing, and Big Data.


Now, according to The New York Times, the government is leaning even harder into pig tech—specifically, facial recognition technology—to combat a new epidemic of swine fever in the country's pig population.

While the illness does not affect humans, it's often fatal to pigs, and as China is responsible for over half of the world's pork production, a decline in supply could cause market fluctuations around the world.


The government's hope is that with facial and vocal recognition, along with other AI-powered technology, farmers will be able to identify and quarantine sick pigs before the disease can spread. Currently, tech giants Alibaba and JD are among the players providing this technology.

Beyond pig farming, AgTech has seen a wave of investments and new startups, like:

  • Bowery Farming, the urban farming startup that has raised over $115 million to build high-tech farms in cities;
  • Cainthus, the Irish company using computer vision to monitor the health of cattle;  and
  • iUNU, a startup whose robot, named LUNA, is trained to monitor and maintain remote greenhouses.


And it's not just startups investing in AgTech. John Deere acquired Blue River Technologies in 2017, largely for the company's “See and Spray” technology, which allowed cameras attached to crop sprayers to identify and target weeds, reducing the amount of chemicals sprayed by 90%.

As climate change and population growth continue to place new pressures on our global capacity for food production, AgTech startups are well-positioned to solve universal food and farming problems. 



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