The venture capital arm of global chemical giant Evonik has chosen to invest in Chinese technology start-up SmartAHC, whose monitoring devices and AI software enable more intelligent and healthier pig farming. Other investors include BASF Venture Capital and Shenzhen SinoAgri E-Commerce.
Evonik, which is headquartered in Essen, Germany, believes its investment will provide priceless insights into innovative farm technology in China, the world’s largest swine market.
SmartAHC, which is based in Chengdu and Shanghai, says its monitoring devices in combination with software that uses AI and the Internet of Things help improve farm efficiency and animal welfare. Early detection of disease, for example, allows farmers to isolate sick animals and prevent widespread infection.
The company produces devices that identify individual pigs, track their location and measure their temperature and fertility. A computer-vision tool provides information on weight, herd numbers and allows early detection of illness. Further devices collect data on feed inventory and daily consumption as well as monitoring of the farm environment for humidity, temperature and ammonia.
Based on the data collected and AI algorithms, SmartAHC’s monitoring software platforms provide real-time information through dashboards, statistics and advice that enable farmers to improve efficiency through lower mortality from disease and more efficient feeding.
The investment enables Evonik, which has decades of experience with animal nutrition and produces essential amino acids that go into feed for chickens and pigs, to further grow its competence in precision livestock farming for sustainable animal nutrition, increasing the financial return for farmers, as well as improving produce quality and sustainability.
The global pork market is about 1.4 billion animals a year with China accounting for about half, according to the company. The swine precision farming market in China is expected to grow by more than 20% annually over the next decade as farmers seek to protect their animals from diseases such as African Swine Fever.
SmartAHC’s technology also helps reduce the danger posed by zoonotic diseases that transmit from animals to humans, such as the H1N1 pathogen that triggered the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Current observations in China identified a mutation of the swine flu known as genotype 4 (G4) that has the potential to transfer to humans. Contactless monitoring of production animals reduces the risks of epidemic spread of such viruses.
“Precision livestock farming is the future of a more sustainable animal protein value chain,” noted Emmanuel Auer, head of Evonik’s animal nutrition business. “With this investment Evonik can connect healthy animal nutrition concepts with sustainable approaches to animal farming and husbandry.”
“This investment provides insight into emerging farm technologies that are highly pertinent to sustainable nutrition,” added Bernhard Mohr, head of Evonik’s venture capital unit. “China is both the largest producer and consumer of pork in the world, making it the most relevant market for intelligent and healthy pig farming.”
“We are looking forward to taking another step in the development of our company together with Evonik,” said Song Lan, CEO, SmartAHC, which first started development in 2014. “This new financing will go towards increasing our research and development capacities and expanding our market presence.”
SmartAHC marks Evonik’s second direct investment in China after the establishment of a venture capital office in Shanghai in 2018 to better secure access to disruptive technologies and innovative business models, as well as supporting digital transformation.