MLA looks to future

MLA looks to future


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AERIAL drones have captured farmers' attention in recent years but ground drones could offer great benefits to the livestock industry, particularly in pastoral zones, according to Meat & Livestock Australia research, development and innovation general manager Sean Starling.

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Rural Solutions SA - PIRSA livestock consultant Ian McFarland and Meat & Livestock Australia research, development and innovation general manager Sean Starling at the Ag Excellence Alliance forum.

Rural Solutions SA - PIRSA livestock consultant Ian McFarland and Meat & Livestock Australia research, development and innovation general manager Sean Starling at the Ag Excellence Alliance forum.

AERIAL drones have captured farmers' attention in recent years but ground drones could offer great benefits to the livestock industry, particularly in pastoral zones, according to Meat & Livestock Australia research, development and innovation general manager Sean Starling.

Mr Starling was a guest speaker at the 13th Ag Excellence annual forum and awards held in Adelaide last week. 

He spoke about robotic vehicles being produced by the United States-based company HDT Global for the armed forces.

With infantry not being able to carry a huge amount of supplies, the use of robotic vehicles can help with access to water, food, fuel and ammunition.

“Ground systems are being used by the US defence force to help ferry supplies to their base,” Mr Starling said.

“These vehicles will tow up to three tonnes of deadweight and will also go over very rough terrain.”

Mr Starling said the stability of the vehicles meant they should be able to handle livestock activity, such as a bull trying to knock it over.

“We’ve been talking with pastoral groups and some of the applications they can see from this technology include dry lick distribution, liquid supplement distribution and livestock counts,” he said.

Other applications for the livestock industry could include weed removal, autonomous refuelling, pest animal detection, fodder distribution and remote delivery of supplies. Checking water tank and trough levels and quality and detection of pipeline leaks, as well as trough cleaning, are other possible applications.

While the use of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry to provide an objective measure of carcase composition and lean meat yield have been widely promoted, Mr Starling said computed tomography (CT) scans could be the next big thing.

“We’ve already got DEXA systems, but CT scanners would allow for 3D deboning, which no one else in the world is doing with any accuracy,” he said.

With farmers short on time and a growing need to have internet access at all times, another area MLA was working on was connectivity.

“We’re working with producers and providers to try and work out the best connectivity solutions for farmers,” Mr Starling said.

“A lot of the producers we’ve talked to weren’t aware of what’s on offer.”

MLA is working to evaluate existing connectivity offerings, internet of things devices and supporting software and develop new solutions.

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