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A group of researchers from the Faculty of Artificial Intelligence at Nankai University in Tianjin, China, cloned pigs for the first time using a technique based 100% on robots. According to the Hong Kong South China Morning Post, the event took place on March 7, when a sow gave birth to seven cloned piglets inside the faculty.

Each stage of the process was performed automatically by the robots, without any human intervention, said Liu Yaowei, one of the members of the research team that performed this performance.

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By cloning pigs, the Chinese hope to obtain “high quality meat” for domestic consumption. Photo: iStock

Liu added that the use of robots has also increased the success rate of cloning, as they are less likely to damage cells while performing the complicated cloning process.

According to Pan Dengke, a former researcher at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, this process, if successful, could ease the intense physical and time-consuming tasks imposed on scientists by the traditional, manual, cloning method.

Pan notes that at one point he manually made more than 1,000 clones a day, a task so complicated and tiring that he developed serious back problems, which this innovation seeks to avoid.

“High quality” pork

The robotic cloning technique developed by this team of scientists began its process in 2017, but at that time it still required some human involvement.

Since its inception five years ago, the success rate of robotic cloning has increased from 21% to 27.5% today, compared to 10% for the manual process, with the hope that progress could make high quality ”to be widely available in China, the world’s largest consumer of this product.

Researcher Liu believes it could help the country become self-sufficient, amid fears of vulnerability to import restrictions in the US and other Western countries.

Therefore, in 2019, China launched a plan to develop the country’s pork sector and achieve the goal of producing 95% of the pork it consumes nationwide in a maximum of ten years, which is why this technique could contribute.

The Asian giant has decided to raise more pigs after overcoming the worst episode of the African swine fever crisis, reducing its imports by 2% in 2021 and generating a wave of uncertainty in international trade.

Read on 8 curiosities about pigs, the animals we domesticated twice

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