PIC ushers in the era of digital phenotyping

For Lionel Puechberty, General Manager at PIC France, the equation for genetic progress lies in four factors: “The size of populations, the genetic variance of populations, the replacement rate within selection pyramid and the accuracy of selection”. On this last point, PIC is resolutely taking the digital turn by integrating digital technology into its selection tools, particularly in the form of video combined with artificial intelligence.

“This is an additional and exceptional tool,” emphasises Sergio Barrabes, PIC’s Marketing and Strategy Director for Europe, who explains the benefits that this technology will be able to offer PIC’s genetic improvement programme: “We are working on the four main areas that are of concern to producers”:

  • productivity – at all levels, not just in terms of piglets per sow
  • feed efficiency – whether economic or ecological,
  • robustness which translates into greater resilience and longevity for the animals and
  • carcass value enhancement in the broadest sense – for slaughterhouses, packers, processors and consumers

According to Lionel Puechberty, the use of video combined with artificial intelligence to process the large amount of data generated is a first in pig genetic selection: “The aim is to increase the number of recordings and standardise the observation. Without artificial intelligence, the videos would have to be analysed and deciphered by human eyes: one can imagine the fatigue of the operator concentrating on his video screen for long hours… Using them is a real challenge, but technology has made a spectacular leap forward and now makes it possible to transform these images into objective, usable data!

The combination of these technologies heralds the era of digital phenotyping. “With more and standardised data, our index calculations is more accurate”, says Sergio Barrabès. Its first application is to improve selection for the robustness of sows and boars, with a more detailed assessment of legs: an algorithm has been developed capable of evaluating video of moving animals and recording the length of steps, speed, angle of legs, curvature of back, etc. for each animal. PIC has already equipped selection farms in North America and will continue to roll out this technology in Europe: “but this data already benefits our entire selection scheme, which is global and brings together data from our farms all over the world”, he explains. The next step,” says Lionel Puechberty, “will be linking the data gathered from these images with the productive life of the animal… We’re only at the beginning of the adventure: the contribution of these technologies is vast and heralds many innovations to come…”

Digital and automated assessment of animal locomotion is a technology exclusive to PIC.

The full article (in French) was published in the October issue of the French magazine PorcMag, Author l F. Foucher, PorcMag, France: PIC inaugure l’ère du phénotypage digital (porcmag.com)