Robot-herder a hit with cows and farmersBusiness, Featured Monday, November 18th, 2013
A team at Sydney University’s Center for Field Robotics has created a robot that could round up cows on dairy farms. The robot known as Rover was put to the test and has been accepted with surprising calm by the ladies on the field. The four-wheeled device was able to successfully move a herd of cows to a dairy from a field. The team said that the herding process was conducted calmly and effectively and that the cows were not disturbed by the presence of the robot.
“Because the robot moved in a steady manner it allowed cows to move at their own speed which is important in reducing lameness among cattle,” said Dr Kendra Kerrisk, dairy researcher and associate professor, to the BBC.
Robots are already being used by farmers in the milking process and Rover was a result of the teams’ exploration into alternative methods in which they could be used to help the dairy sector. Although the present prototype needs to be operated by humans, it is hopeful that a fully-automated version can be developed in future.
The success of the experiment has herded in much hope for Australian farmers. The country has of late been bringing in workers from outside of Australia to fill in the shortage of farm workers.
Dr Kerrisk stated that the research was in its very early stages but that robotic technologies certainly have the potential to transform dairy farming. “When we discussed this concept with farmers they have been extremely excited and we have had a flurry of calls and emails asking how they can get hold of one,” she added.
Robots are helping more than the dairy sector. A new high-tech storage system that can make apples stay fresh for up to a year is also said to hit the markets soon. Rover was reported to be an adaptation of a robot that was already in use to monitor fruit trees on farms.