The Guardian has one of those interesting pieces they do rather well. Something you’d not have thought of even thinking about – facial recognition for pigs would you believe? – explained in a useful and even interesting manner.
But this being The Guardian there’s a howling missing of the point in there too. There just always is.
So, the idea is that pigs can be recognised by their facial features. OK. So, stick cameras in there, monitor how they’re looking. Spot those with the sniffles, those looking a bit peaky. Or those with a burst of growth to feed them a bit more. Or, well, just be able to monitor better than a quick eyeglance while pottering through 50 piglets squealing for their bucket at the same time:
Farmers are also sent personalised notifications through an app, allowing them to adjust rations manually if they so choose. All this makes for a more hands-off relationship between farmer and pig – but the technology also allows farmers to be more efficient.
By tracking pigs from birth to slaughter, firms like Yingzi can build up a database of information on each animal’s growth rate. This allows farmers to cut down on wasted food by as much as 20%, with the FRT system optimising the amount of food served to each animal.
Ooooh, cool. Lower inputs for the same bacon output. That’s increased efficiency, rising productivity.
In a country home to more than half the world’s pigs, it’s unsurprising that the advent of FRT farming has proved a major moneymaker. Last year, Yingzi rolled out its Future Pig Farm system to hundreds of farms across southeastern China, which allowed individual farmers to cut rearing costs by anywhere from 30% to 50%, according to farmers who spoke to the Guardian.
No, that’s really cool. Excellent even. Humanity as a whole is richer from this, this is pure, exultant, economic growth.
And now for the Guardian’s usual economic blindness:
Facial recognition for pigs: Is it helping Chinese farmers or hurting the poorest?
What do you mean or? It’s both you idiots.
But it also has the potential to leave behind independent, small-scale farmers, who cannot afford to introduce this kind of technology to their operations.
Yep, right on and preach it to the choir brother! Because the way that humanity does advance is that productivity rises. This meaning – inevitably, that the less productive stop and go do something else. Our very aim is that these new, more efficient, methods kill off those using the older less efficient ones. This is true whether we’re talking about tractors killing off oxdrawn ploughs or Grindr/Tinder replacing dank nightclubs as a mating resource.
The entire point is that those old and inefficient manners of production are killed off by the new. This then meaning that the resources – including the human labour – now laid off by the more efficient production methods can go do something else. It’s the tractor that allowed us to have the NHS – we don’t need as much labour in the fields therefore we can have 10% of the workforce in the hospitals. Without our having freed the labour from scything grain we couldn’t have health care.
Our entire aim in raising the productivity of pig farming is in killing off those small and poor pig farms. There’s no “or” here. It’s a “because”.