North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE -

MUS­TER­ING live­stock with a ro­bot may seem like some­thing straight out of Back To The Fu­ture, but there is hope that ro­bots may yet be as com­mon on the fam­ily farm as a trac­tor.

SwagBot, an Aus­tralian in­no­va­tion, is in early pro­to­type phase, and has been de­vel­oped by Pro­fes­sor Salah Sukkarieh, who hopes it may one day be a com­mon sight in pad­docks across the coun­try.

“We’ve suc­cess­fully field-tested it on two NSW graz­ing prop­er­ties, and by the end of our three-year project - part-funded by the MLA Donor Com­pany - we hope to have a fi­nal pro­to­type ready for ex­ten­sive test­ing and op­er­a­tion on farm that a pro­ducer or con­sul­tant could use,” he said.

SwagBot is bat­tery-pow­ered with so­lar re-charg­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and it can be di­rected by re­mote con­trol, or have a course pre-set through GPS pro­grams and col­li­sion avoid­ance tech­nol­ogy.

SwagBot has been pro­grammed to in­ter­act with live- stock, read mois­ture lev­els in the soil and de­tect spe­cific weeds and, if necessary, spot spray them.

“SwagBot can in­ter­face with on farm map­ping pro­gram, Farm Map 4D, com­mu­ni­cate and work co-op­er­a­tively with drones, as well as pull a trailer and move live­stock,” Salah said.

“While it can of­fer farm and an­i­mal sur­veil­lance at present, we’re hop­ing in fu­ture to de­velop ap­proaches for au­to­mated mon­i­tor­ing of an­i­mal health as well.”

IN­VEST­MENT: If you’re look­ing for ways to spend some ex­tra cap­i­tal on the farm, con­sider the lat­est in ro­botic mus­ter­ing. De­signed to herd live­stock, con­trol weeds and send pas­ture in­for­ma­tion to a desk­top, the ro­bot is still in its pro­to­type phase.

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