Rover goes robotic

12 Jul, 2013 04:00 AM

SHOUTING "Go back Rover, you mongrel!" often doesn't have much effect on working dogs, and will definitely have no effect whatsoever on the Robotic Rover.

This may be disappointing in a machine that in its prototype form is worth about $1 million, but then the Robotic Rover shouldn't be prone to a dog's errors of judgement.

In fact, the idea of a robot herder, recently run through proof-of-concept testing on a Camden dairy herd, is partly to remove human judgement from the herding process.

"Removing human judgement from trafficking speed will allow us to ensure that cows are only ever herded at a pace that is comfortable, even for the slowest cows," a background document on the Robotic Rover says.

"A slower pace of herding will allow cows to arrive at the dairy in time to be milked out without necessarily being yarded and the last cows having to stand on concrete for an extended period of time."

Herding at cow pace, rather than impatient farmer pace, would also mean less effluent in the dairy yard and more on the pasture, the backgrounder notes.

At present, the Robotic Rover is little more than a nickname for a robotics research platform called Shrimp that was introduced to a paddock full of dairy cows.

The cows responded to Shrimp as they would a farmer on a quad bike, and the machine was able to herd them to the dairy yard.

Collaborating researchers from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics and the Dairy Research Group, both housed at the University of Sydney, now have to flesh out the concept into a commercial reality.

Shrimp is designed to test robot perceptions. The platform bristles with sensors, "including monocular, stereo and panospheric colour cameras, thermal infrared cameras, 2D and 3D LiDAR sensors, a sophisticated scanning RADAR system and geopositioning sensors".

A commercial version of the Robotic Rover would shed most of these sensors, and most of Shrimp's million-dollar price tag, and focus on the core business of mustering cattle.

Over the next two years, an ACFR team will look at refining the robot herder concept, making it more terrain-aware and developing algorithms so that the machine knows how to respond to sick cows or other unusual situations.

If commercialised, the robot may also eventually carry pasture monitoring equipment, be able to detect oestrus or illness in cows, and other chores that liberate the farmer for jobs requiring human input.

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


12/07/2013 10:39:10 AM

what a stupid waste of money. it is becoming more apparent that the business of spending dairyfarmers levy money is much more lucrative the actual dairy industry. come on lets be real about this. how many people will benefit from this, a handfull at most. money should be spent on projects that help most dairyfarmers not a select few. this is why i voted against increasing the levy.
iron cutter
12/07/2013 12:03:29 PM

bet the diode warmer doesnt even lick your hand when your best cow dies, your wife leaves, or the bank forcloses. Whilst there are very good uses for robotics that do save time and money in many areas of medicine, agriculture etc, i think i will still be feeding hairy rover and his offspring for a long time yet - unless that is, they make a robotic cow that is programmed to eat grass, spread the manure evenly, shift the electric fence ( hang on we wont need them either), milk itself and containerise the milk, and bank the cheque for 60c/l. Guess i will then be out of a job too
Country Girl
12/07/2013 12:40:54 PM

Sorry to say Matthew, but not all of us call our dogs mongrel! We do actually like our dogs. 'Impatient farmer' is also a little insulting. Once again us farmers are bad mouthed. I would also like to ask where the money is going to come from if this robot is going to cost $1m?? Oh......that's right, farmers are made of money and I'll go spend that money on a new Prado.
12/07/2013 2:46:20 PM

Listen to you lot... Pathetic.. here is innovation and you are mocking it!! Do you realize the benefits of a machine that can automatically carry out real time paddock monitoring like NDVI readings? Research platform... Stop being too eager to dismiss new technology.
Marian Macdonald
12/07/2013 3:19:53 PM

Well, I can't wait to get my hands on one. Rover would save us about 2 hours a day just rounding up - no more frozen fingers on handlebars, either! It could also shift temporary fences, sample soils, measure pasture residuals, assess lameness and even do midnight maternity paddock checks. This robot could take a lot of the hard slog out of dairying and give us back a life. I'm in favour, big time.
12/07/2013 5:14:45 PM

Interacting with your animals is one of the greatest pleasures of farming. Are we preparing for a generation of farmer who don't like being near animals?
Kendra Kerrisk
12/07/2013 6:31:07 PM

As a researcher in the project I just want to put a couple of things right. Your Levy did not pay for the development but we used the prototype to see how cows respond. It was not our intention to do away with mans best friend - more to make lifestyle more appealing and reduce risk of injury with quads. Commercial price will not be anywhere near $1m - no one would buy one. Not every piece of technology is for everyone but it is nice to have options.
Lynne Strong
13/07/2013 8:15:39 AM

Just blown away by the technology and innovation the dairy industry has access too. As far as I am aware not once cent of any dairy farmers levy money has been spent on this technology Future Dairy has just been lucky enough to be able to trial the technology Wow how can u knock technology that will go out in the middle of the night and check stringers and downer cows Measure soil nutrients and a plethora of other tasks. A one stop shop potential allowing smart farming with farmers free to do what they do best as well as allow them to focus on the business side of the business Bring it on
Elle Lindsay
13/07/2013 11:43:26 AM

Congratulations and kudos to the dairy industry researchers There is nothing more important than cow comfort and well being if Rover delivers the cows to the dairy at the ideal pace does it get any better
she's my ute
16/07/2013 10:55:35 AM

Sounds like a whole lot of BULL to me. Will this thing snuggle up beside me in the ute on a cold frosty night ?,Piddle on the neighbors wheel of their new car when they come to visit,and play with the grand kids on the weekend when they come to stay? Will it have pups for them to play with ? I tend to think not. Give me my old blue heeler any day.
1 | 2  |  next >


Screen name *
Email address *
Remember me?
Comment *


light grey arrow
Well Said Mathew, On our place before we could ever have a wireless internet system, we would
light grey arrow
Good points, Matthew. Maybe you should send this piece to our new Communications Minister Mitch
light grey arrow
Why has AWI refused to comment?