Chinese farm developing facial recognition technology for goats

Phoebe Zhang, South China Morning Post

Posted at Nov 12 2021 01:47 PM

A farm in eastern China is developing a new facial recognition system — not for its staff, but for its goats.
The Shanghai-based Vert City Farm has been working on the system since 2019 and is expected to put it into use next year, using security cameras installed on the farm to watch over the goats, according to an article from the Shanghai Chongming district government website.

Huang Zhen, the chairman of the farm’s board, told local news portal The Paper that the cameras are designed to recognise each goat’s characteristics, including their behaviour, body shape and exercise patterns, as well as being able to tell some goats apart by their features.

“The cameras can also recognise symptoms of diseases, including sore mouth and diarrhoea. It uses infrared to measure their body temperature and would alert the farm vets if a goat’s temperature rises above 40 degrees Celsius,” he said.

At the same time, facial recognition can avoid inbreeding among the goats, as the system records breeding activity. It can also tell whether a goat is pregnant and help vets prepare.

Currently, about 1,000 goats have had chips implanted to allow artificial intelligence to learn about their behaviour and to test computer prediction models, the Chongming government said.

The system is gathering data and learning how to determine whether a goat has symptoms of diarrhoea or when a goat is ready for breeding based on pictures and videos. In the future, Huang said he hopes the system can even make projections on each goat’s weight based on their diet and growth.

It can also reduce staff work loads. Currently, the managers and vets at the farm need to patrol several times a day to observe the goats’ health. But with the facial recognition technology, managers can receive updates on their phone, Huang said.

Facial recognition technology is employed frequently in China to monitor people at airports, recognise traffic violations, and even catch criminals at concerts. However, facial recognition for animals is still at an early stage of development.

Earlier this year, a research team from the Northwest University in Xian developed facial recognition for monkeys to identify thousands of Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkeys in the Qinling Mountain in Shaanxi province, central China.

It extracts facial feature information from the monkey to establish their identity against a database of the individual monkeys, Xinhua reported.

Currently, the experimental system can identify about 200 golden monkeys in the Qinling Mountain, which aids conservation efforts.