Technology firms are working on perfecting their facial and voice recognition for pigs, after many of them died from a swine disease that has been spreading quickly through China in the recent weeks.
China, the world’s largest pork producer, accounts to more than half of the total production of 113 million tons, according to the latest data by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service. They are also the largest consumer.
Because of the African swine fever spreading through the country, many businesses (most of them family-owned) are threatened to close if they can’t find a solution to prevent or end the disease.
To prevent this from happening, big Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and JD.com are currently developing artificial intelligence that can detect voice and face recognition among pigs in order to protect their pigs’ well-being, according to a report by Sui-Lee Wee and Elsie Chen for The New York Times.
Pigs’ ears are punctured with radio-frequency tags to track them, but if the tech moguls could produce the facial and voice recognition technologies, then, the Chinese government will 100 percent support the push, claiming that the move may help in cutting down pollution.
Thomas Parsons, a professor of swine production medicine at the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine, claimed that a swine tracking upgrade is “more important than ever,” according to a report by Knowledge@Wharton, which is a daily broadcasting interview program from The Wharton School.
“With that rapid and almost exponential growth in the business, it is clear that they would also benefit from some extended business training,” added Parsons, explaining that China’s per capita consumption has increased 15 times over the past 40 years.
However, Dirk Pfeiffer, a professor of veterinary epidemiology at the City University of Hong Kong, said the idea is great, but he has to see it first in the works, according to the NYT.
“If it doesn’t work, it’s counterproductive,” he said. He pointed out that facial recognition won’t work if they do not have a comprehensive and central database of the pigs’ faces to track them.
Pig farmers are also skeptical after many small pig farms closed, because they are blamed for polluting the environment.
“We will not choose to invest in these things,” said Wang Wenjun, a 27-year old farmer told the New York Times. “Unless it’s a large-scale pig farm, farms that have just over a couple hundred pigs will not find a use for it.”
Mark Hansen, a senior research fellow at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and one of the academics exploring ways to adapt the technology among pigs, believes the bigger problem is how to prove that facial and voice recognition is actually helpful, useful and beneficial among farmers, according to Slate.com.
“If [the technology] doesn’t translate into a management system that’s easy to use and robust, the farmers are not going to be willing to trial it,” Hansen said.
NYT reported that pig facial recognition works the same way as human facial recognition does.
“Right now, these applications may not have reached their desired levels,” Wang Lixian, research fellow of animal and veterinary science at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told NYT. “But in the future, they will become more and more extensive.”