July 20, 2020


BASF invests in developer of artificial intelligence for animal husbandry


BASF Venture Capital is investing in SmartAHC, a leading supplier of digitalisation solutions for pig farming in the Chinese market.

SmartAHC was founded in 2014 by graduates of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The Shanghai-based startup provides customised digital solutions to increase efficiency throughout the pork value chain. Other investors include specialty chemicals producer Evonik and China's Shenzhen Sinoagri E-Commerce.

Through digitalisation, husbandry operations can optimise 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 fattening process. SmartAHC uses sensors, camera systems and artificial intelligence to collect and analyse various data in order to predict emerging issues. Pig farmers can therefore continuously monitor the condition of their animals and take action promptly and efficiently, for example, by selectively administering medication, adjusting the feed or separating sick animals.

Pig farming is an important market, especially in China. Global pork demand is around 1.4 billion animals per year, roughly half of which comes from China. In 2018, Chinese operations produced around 700 million animals. Pork is the most popular meat in China: two-thirds of the meat consumed in the country comes from pigs. 

Since contact between humans and animals is considered a cause of the spread of disease in livestock, the Chinese pig farming industry has invested heavily in technologies that can reduce human intervention in the farming process.

Furthermore, digitalised processes offer additional new opportunities for breeders and other players at an early stage of the value chain, e.g., 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 towards ever-larger farms and meat suppliers. Larger scaled farms realise 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 optimise processes, from breeding to finishing and slaughtering," said Lan Song, SmartAHC's CEO. "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."

"SmartAHC is a young company, but already has a keen understanding of the Chinese market and a good reputation among their customers in China," said Markus Solibieda, managing director of BASF Venture Capital. "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 digitalisation. Moreover, our investment complements BASF's strategy of promoting sustainability and healthy nutrition."