Robots bring poultry industry closer to connected farms

Robotics and advances in automation innovation can streamline poultry production management, bringing the entire poultry industry closer to connected farms with the use of digital technologies.

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(Iamus Technologies)
(Iamus Technologies)

Robotics and advances in automation innovation can streamline poultry production management, bringing the entire poultry industry closer to connected farms with the use of digital technologies.

“We are getting closer to a connected farm” where unmanned aerial systems, ground robots and robot manipulators will send data directly to the cloud to make food production smarter and more efficient, Dr. Santosh Pitla, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said during the November 17 webinar, Ground and Aerial Robots for Agricultural Production: Opportunities and Challenges.

Pitla is also the task force chair of a new issue paper on the topic of robots in agriculture from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST).

Machine evolution

Modern farming equipment and machinery is smart, sometimes even able to connect directly to the internet and the cloud. Drones, or unmanned aerial systems, are also used for some agricultural applications.

“In the early 1900s, we literally used horsepower for farming operations. That changed with the introduction of the tractor in the 1920s,” explained Pitla. Technological advancements in technology, like the tractor, have led to improvements in productivity, resulting in the precision agriculture innovation seen today.

On the farm, digital technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence can help interpret the data collected by robots.

Applications for the poultry industry

In poultry houses, robots could be designed to pick up eggs from the floor, monitor environmental conditions at the bird level, turn over the litter and spray disinfectant. One manufacturer even suggests that robots can encourage hens to use nesting boxes, rather than lay eggs on the floor.

In addition to automating tasks to reduce the amount of human labor needed, robots can also be used to collect and analyze environmental and animal data, including temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, sound and light. This information could help diagnose and detect diseases and improve animal welfare.

Robots designed for use in poultry production are still in the early stages compared to other forms of animal agriculture, however they show great potential to help improve the efficiency of the industry.

“In animal agriculture, robotic milking stations are mature and commercially available, whereas however robotics in the poultry and swine industry are still evolving,” Pitla said.

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