China’s Tech Firms See Opportunity in African Swine Fever

New York Times writers Sui-Lee Wee and Elsie Chen reported this week that, “A database of every pig’s face. Voice scans that detect hogs with a cough. Robots that dispense just the right amount of feed.

This could be China’s pig farm of the future.

Chinese companies are pushing facial and voice recognition and other advanced technologies as ways to protect the country’s pigs. In this Year of the Pig, many Chinese hogs are dying from a deadly swine disease, threatening the country’s supply of pork, a staple of Chinese dinner tables.”

The Times writers explained that, “Broadly, the Chinese government in recent years has endorsed technology on the farm. Its most recent five-year plan, a major economic planning document, calls for increased use of robotics and network technology. In October, the State Council, or China’s cabinet, said it wanted to promote ‘intelligent farming’ and the application of information technology in agriculture. In August, Beijing city agricultural officials praised ‘raising pigs in a smart way’ using the A-B-C-Ds: artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing and data technology.

So when African swine fever swept through China’s farms, the country’s technology companies saw an opportunity. The disease has no known vaccine or cure. It can spread through contact between animals or through infected pig products, meaning it can lurk for months in sausages or ham. It doesn’t affect humans, but they can carry it. China has culled nearly a million pigs, set up roadblocks and built fences, to no avail.”

This week’s article added that, “There’s a lot at stake. China is the world’s largest pig breeder, with a current population of about 400 million, and its largest pork consumer. The meat is so important that the country has its own strategic pork reserve in the event of a shortage.

The disease could also ripple across borders. It has been found in sausages transported by Chinese tourists in Australia, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand, stoking fears that it could end up in the United States. A prolonged outbreak could cause prices to rise globally.”

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