Just what can a robot do in a broiler house?

Georgia Tech researcher Colin Usher explains what a robot can do in a commercial broiler house.

format35 | BigStockPhoto
format35 | BigStockPhoto

Commercial broiler chicken houses have thousands of birds that need to be checked daily to ensure good management practices. Attendees of the inaugural Poultry Tech Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, learned about how robotics can assist in commercial poultry operations from Colin Usher, a research scientist with Georgia Tech Research Institute's Food Processing Technologies Division.

“Our goal is to create a robot that can do everything a farmer needs to do in a house,” Usher said.

That’s a lot. So, just what can this robot do? Usher outlines its capabilities in detail.

What the robot can do:

  • The robot uses a localization system containing sensors that tell it where it can go. It is also equipped with Marvelmind indoor GPS, which allows the robot to know exactly where it is in the poultry house, within 2 centimeters.


  • The robot remembers where it has been and executes searches. This is important for picking up eggs or removing mortality. “If there is a place in the house where the robot can’t get to because chickens are not moving, it can go on and search the rest of the house and then come back to that area,” Usher explained.


  • The robotic arm uses a suction cup to pick up the eggs. Usher said more work is needed for the removal of mortality due to bird weight.


  • The robot’s remote control capability allows farmers to pull the device up on their phone and use a 360-degree camera to look around the house. They can also drive the robot, so in instances where the operator wants to check something specific, that can be done.


  • The robot is capable of environmental sensing for humidity, floor moisture, temperature, light levels and gasses such as ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane and others. It has vision-based sensing which allows it to do classification and segmentation, along with welfare monitoring.


  • The smart robot has a deep neural network detection system that allows it to detect objects like eggs, chickens, feeders and drinkers. It can also compute locations of 3-D objects so it knows where to pick up eggs with its robotic arm.

The big picture: Robotics may be the answer to US labor shortage

Make connections: Learn more about innovative technologies for the poultry industry by registering for Poultry Tech Summit, November 20-22, in Atlanta, Georgia.

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