Evonik invests in Chinese tech startup to support intelligent, healthier pig farming
Evonik’s venture capital arm has invested in SmartAHC, a Chinese technology startup that enables more intelligent and healthier pig farming. SmartAHC, based in Chengdu and Shanghai, has developed monitoring devices and software that uses Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things to improve farm efficiency and animal welfare. Early detection of disease, for example, allows farmers to isolate sick animals and prevent widespread infection.
Bernhard Mohr, head of the venture capital unit said: “This investment provides insight into emerging farm technologies that are highly pertinent to sustainable nutrition. 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.”
SmartAHC 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 artificial intelligence algorithms, SmartAHC’s monitoring software platforms provide real-time information through dashboards, statistics and advice. Farmers have the advantage of improving the efficiency of the farm with lower mortality from disease and more efficient feeding.
Evonik has decades of experience with animal nutrition and produces essential amino acids that go into feed for chickens and pigs. The company is building up its competence in precision livestock farming for sustainable animal nutrition, which increases farmers’ financial return as well as improving the quality of their produce and the sustainability of their farms.
The global pork market is about 1.4 billion animals a year with China accounting for about half. The swine precision farming market in China is expected to grow by more than 20 percent annually over the next decade as farmers seek to protect their animals from diseases such as African Swine Fever.
The technology from SmartAHC also contributes to reducing the risks from zoonotic diseases. These diseases transmitted from animals to humans, can cause pandemics, 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.
Emmanuel Auer, head of Evonik’s Animal Nutrition business said: “Precision livestock farming is the future of a more sustainable animal protein value chain. With this investment Evonik can connect healthy animal nutrition concepts with sustainable approaches to animal farming and husbandry.”
SmartAHC started development in 2014 with Song Lan and Howard Tang. Other investors include BASF Venture Capital and Shenzhen SinoAgri E-Commerce.
Song Lan, chief executive officer of SmartAHC said: ''We are looking forward to taking another step in the development of our company together with Evonik. This new financing will go towards increasing our research and development capacities and expanding our market presence.”
SmartAHC is the second direct investment in China. Evonik established a venture capital office in Shanghai in 2018, which is helping the company tap into the fast-expanding and innovative startup scene in China. Evonik Venture Capital helps Evonik secure access to disruptive technologies and innovative business models as well as supporting digital transformation.