German multinational BASF has made its second investment in precision livestock systems this month through its BASF Venture Capital arm. The latest purchase is a stake in the Chinese agri-tech company SmartAHC which specialises in artificial intelligence for the pig industry.

SmartAHC was founded in 2014 by graduates of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Other investors include feed additive maker Evonik and China’s Shenzhen Sinoagri E-Commerce.

The start-up’s digital package for large-scale pig farming uses smart sensors and computer algorithms to collect and analyse data from rearing and finishing accommodation to count, identify and observe the animals, while the AI can predict emerging issues that threaten productivity.

This reduces the stockman time needed, while the continuous monitoring means prompt action can be taken where animals fail to thrive – for example selective medication, adjusting feed or separating sick animals.

The system is aimed at the Chinese market initially – two thirds of the domestic meat consumption is pork, with the country producing 700 million pigs each year – half the world’s output. At the same time, China’s pig industry is consolidating into fewer, but larger units after the recent African Swine Fever epidemic there.

Reducing contact between humans and animals will reduce the spread of disease, and China is investing in technologies to reduce such human interventions, says the company. In addition, digital information streams will also benefit the whole food chain through providing better information on supplies to processors and retailers, as well as helping product quality and food traceability.

“Our artificial intelligence uses the data collected in the pigsty to optimize processes from breeding to finishing and slaughtering,” comments SmartAHC chief executive Lan Song. “At the same time, consumers increasingly want to know where their meat comes from. Our systems can provide this transparency. We are happy that BASF is joining us on our journey towards smarter pig farming. With this investment, we want to increase our R&D capacities and further expand our market presence.”

Markus Solibieda, managing director of BASF Venture Capital adds: “SmartAHC’s technology can contribute substantially to animal health as well as to economic optimisation along the pork value chain. SmartAHC is a good fit for our investment focus on AgTech and digitalization. Moreover, our investment complements BASF’s strategy of promoting sustainability and healthy nutrition.”

Earlier this month, BASF acquired Cloudfarms, a Slovakian software business specialising in precision livestock management and traceability.