In the “Year of the Pig”: Porcine Face Monitoring

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In the “Year of the Pig”: Porcine Face Monitoring

Researchers at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) are developing facial recognition technology that can help farmers assess the emotional and physical well-being of pigs. The health of pigs is currently monitored to an extent using RFID tags, but pigs happen to be one farm animal known to be highly expressive and communicate with each other using different facial expressions.

Scientists have been capturing 3D and 2D facial images of the breeding sow population. The images are then processed at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) where techniques are being developed to automatically identify different emotions. According to a report from the New York Times, major Chinese tech companies like Alibaba and JD.com are developing artificial intelligence tools to detect disease and keep track of individual pigs using facial recognition. China hopes the technology will make large farms more manageable, allowing it to consolidate and close smaller facilities. The government claims that the move would cut down on pollution.  Facial Recognition: In the Year of the Pig - Porcine Face Monitoring Pork is by far the most popular meat dish in China and more than half of the world’s pigs are reared and consumed in the country. However, pig farming in China is woefully inefficient compared to western countries and Chinese tech companies see opportunities to apply AIoT solutions to remedy this. For instance, Alibaba is using its so-called “Agriculture Brain”, an AI platform that uses AI-supported facial and speech recognition plus other AIoT technologies, to help farmers monitor pigs in real time. Start-up Yingzi Technology in Guangzhou, one of the first Chinese companies to roll out a pig facial recognition system, is trialing its system on a farm with 3,000 pigs. The system works by continuously scanning each pig’s face using a smartphone, which records the pig’s distinguishing features (see the picture below). The data is then analyzed by an app on the phone using deep learning algorithms and uploaded to an online database. The company claims that system matches and updates the individual pig’s profile in just a few seconds and documents details such as its ID number, its breed, birth date, weight, gender and genetic composition.

Author: Tim Cole
Image Credit: Yingzi

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