Huawei has launched a "Smart Hog Raising Program," according to Duan Aiguo, the President of Intelligent Vision Domain at the largest telecommunications company in China.
Though much of the details are unavailable from the public, Huawei's hog raising solution reportedly provides services like herd monitoring and accompanying data and computer vision-based analysis, as well as prediction and even decision making.
Citing sources, state-owned media Securities Times said that the program has the backing of a strategic agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture, meaning it's state-supported. The company's technology could also be applied to other livestock raising sectors to promote their future development.
Huawei's pivot into livestock raising come at a time when pork price remained elevated for extended duration across China, as an outbreak of African swine fever severely threatened supply. Although the government claimed the disease had since been well constrained, China's most-active hog futures contract surged more than 4% on Monday after recent reports highlighted swine fever cases in the world’s largest pork consumer have re-erupted.
In light of the situation, many technology companies are trying to fit their expertise into this pork crisis, using technologies like data analytics, facial, and even voice recognition this time, to protect the country's pork supply.
Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, and JD.com, one of its rivals, are using cameras to track pigs' faces. Alibaba also uses voice-recognition software to monitor their coughs to predict their health status. Gaming giant NetEase, whose founder Ding Lei is known for his fondness in pig raising, had also built several farms equipped with industrialized solutions as the government vows to boost domestic pork production in response to the raging swine fever.
Digitization and intelligence are the way to go in terms of modern agriculture, an industry that is still much of a labor-intensive one. For companies like Huawei that are both advanced in research and developer as well as maintaining good government relationship, it's profitable for them to empower agriculture with the latest technology.
Huawei's announcement of entering the hog raising sector, however, seems to echo the fact that the company has not yet recovered from the plight caused by US government's technology sanctions.
The previous Trump administration had cut the Chinese telecom giant off of key providers in smartphone software and chips, hurting its sales all throughout 2020, while other governments also severely limited the company's ability to participate in 5G infrastructure plans around the world over national security concerns.
According to data released by Canalys on Thursday, Huawei shipped 32 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, a drop of 43% from the same period last year. It's the first time Huawei has fallen out of the top five smartphone makers in six years, according to the market research company.
It is also rumored that some of Huawei's suppliers have been notified to reduce production as the giant readjust its shipping targets and estimates its smartphone shipments will plunge by more than 60% in 2021, according to a report by The Paper.
Facing a grim future, Huawei decided to sell Honor, its prominent mid-end smartphone brand, to a consortium of over 30 smartphone dealers, in order to ensure the brand's survival.
It would appear that the smart hog raising program is part of Huawei's "Nanniwan" project, a sort of backup plan against the US tech crackdown launched by the company in 2020. The name of the project is a throwback to anti-fascist war days of early last century, when the protagonist Communist soldiers and civilians scrambled to repurposed vast lands to grow food in order to survive sanctions by the invading Japanese force.
"We can still survive without smartphone business," Ren Zhengfei, founder and CEO of Huawei, told the media when talking about the Naniwan Project on February 9 this year. "After more than a year of being embargoed, I have greater confidence in Huawei. We can make significant breakthroughs in multiple areas, including coal, steel, music, smart screens, PCs, tablets, etc.," said the founder.