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Beyond the Bale : September 2018
ON FARM 69 AWI INVESTMENTS IN ROBOTIC SHEARING Wool harvesting is an elaborate labour- intensive process, relying on highly trained shearers and wool handlers who work hard within a busy wool shed work place. Considering the national shearer and shed hand annual award rate rise of about 3.4% over the past 10 years and rising workplace health and safety insurance costs, woolgrowers requested AWI take a new look at automated shearing. Research and development in automated technologies is a fast moving and high- risk sector with thousands of global players in robotics and programing across every industry from human health and food industries to mining and transport. AWI is spreading the investment risk in automated shearing across a few investments and is looking for additional opportunities in safe and soft robotics. Investment has started with two streams. The one outlined left is identifying existing robotic hardware and software developed for other industries for application to any part of shearing. The other is building a system that enables full automation (full wool sheep in and shorn sheep out) – see box right. In partnership with Ranken Research and Robo Shear, the new four-year AWI project is a practical engineering research and development project that aims to design, construct, field test and evaluate a proof of concept prototype machine for fully automated end to end wool harvesting. AWI General Manager Research, Jane Littlejohn, said the research aim of full automation of the whole wool harvesting process is innovative and future focused to support the future sustainability of the sheep and wool industry. “This research is a long-term project that is seeking to develop a prototype machine to fill the shearer shortage gap,” Jane outlined. “AWI invests in research into alternative wool harvesting technology to improve the efficiency of organising and conducting shearing.” Robo Shear Project Director Richard Lyons said the final product envisaged is a modular, portable, reliable machine that can fully automatically harvest traditional fleece wool from a sheep. “Our long-term aim is to develop a readily available and capable automated alternative to manual shearing that will provide a range of benefits including ensuring the welfare of the sheep and reduces the risk of both human and animal injury,” he explained. “It is critical the end product of our project ensures the quality of the fleece with a target rate of 1,500 de-fleeced sheep in a continuous 10-hour period.” Fully automated shearing could be the way of the future for shearing sheds across Australia following the launch of an AWI-funded research project to automate wool harvesting from sheep. R&D INTO FULLY AUTOMATED WOOL HARVESTING
In the Shops - September 2018