BASF Venture Capital announced that it is investing in SmartAHC, a supplier of digitalization solutions for pig farming in China that provides customized digital solutions to increase efficiency throughout the pork value chain.
Other investors include specialty chemicals producer Evonik and China’s Shenzhen Sinoagri E-Commerce.
The Shanghai, China-based startup was founded in 2014 by graduates of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
In its announcement, Evonik noted that SmartAHC has developed monitoring devices and software that uses artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to improve farm efficiency and animal welfare.
BASF said through digitization, husbandry operations can optimize labor productivity in the production process. For example, pigs can be easily counted, identified and observed at any point in time during the rearing and finishing processes.
Using sensors, camera systems and artificial intelligence to collect and analyze various data in order to predict emerging issues, pig farmers can continuously monitor the condition of their animals and take action promptly and efficiently by, for example, selectively administering medication, adjusting the feed or separating sick animals, BASF added.
“This investment provides insight into emerging farm technologies that are highly pertinent to sustainable nutrition,” Bernhard Mohr, head of the Evonik venture capital unit, said.
BASF said digitized processes offer additional new opportunities for breeders and other players at an early stage of the value chain, e.g., a reliable supply of pork to online butcher shops, higher product quality and food traceability. Especially in China, with its huge population concentrated in megacities, there is a trend toward ever-larger farms and meat suppliers. Larger-scaled farms realize the value of adopting digital technology in order to stand out from the competition.
“Our artificial intelligence uses the data collected in the pigsty to optimize processes, from breeding to finishing and slaughtering,” SmartAHC chief executive officer Lan Song said. “At the same time, consumers increasingly want to know where their meat comes from. Our systems can provide this transparency. ... With this investment, we want to increase our [research and development] capacities and further expand our market presence.”
Markus Solibieda, managing director of BASF Venture Capital, added, “SmartAHC is a young company but already has a keen understanding of the Chinese market and a good reputation among their customers in China. SmartAHC’s technology can contribute substantially to animal health as well as to economic optimization along the pork value chain. SmartAHC is a good fit for our investment focus on ag tech and digitalization. Moreover, our investment complements BASF’s strategy of promoting sustainability and healthy nutrition.”
Evonik noted that it is building up its competence in precision livestock farming for sustainable animal nutrition, which increases farmers’ financial return as well as improves the quality of their produce and the sustainability of their farms.
The technology from SmartAHC also contributes to reducing the risks from zoonotic diseases, such as various strains of the influenza virus that affect people and swine. 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,” Emmanuel Auer, head of Evonik’s Animal Nutrition business, said. “With this investment, Evonik can connect healthy animal nutrition concepts with sustainable approaches to animal farming and husbandry.”