AUTOMATION and robotic technology will be an integral part of SA meat processor Thomas Foods International's new Murray Bridge abattoir.
Dual energy x-ray machines, robotic precision cutting tools for maximum meat yield, an industry-leading 3D scanner and automated packing and wrapping technology will contribute to the facility's expected daily throughput of up to 1400 cattle and up to 14,000 sheep, lambs and goats.
The family-owned company's previous facility at Murray Bridge was destroyed by fire in 2018, and the new world-class multi-species abattoir, 10 kilometres from Murray Bridge, was initially expected to begin processing cattle in November this year.
Speaking at Monday's inaugural AdvanceAg showcase, an event encouraging the adoption of technology in agriculture, TFI chief executive officer Darren Thomas said despite the challenges faced after the fire, the company had been given an "amazing opportunity to build something quite unique".
Some of the robotics available are quite exciting for what we're doing, contributing to animal welfare and food safety requirements.
Mr Thomas said TFI had enlisted the services of Scott Automation and Robotics to assist with the fit out of the new plant.
"Some of the robotics available are quite exciting for what we're doing, contributing to animal welfare and food safety requirements," he said.
Mr Thomas said the food processing industry was on the cusp of a new era in its utilisation of technology.
"We've been a very traditional labour-intensive industry, and we'll still always require skilled labour, but some of the imaging we're able to get through advanced technology and the speeds of production we need to operate at mean things are changing," he said.
Mr Thomas said TFI was excited for its rebuild to begin, with the construction of a heavy duty road expected in coming months the first physical step.
Related reading:TFI announces world-class abattoir rebuild
Mr Thomas praised organisers of the AdvanceAg showcase and encouraged all levels of government, and the private sector, to continue supporting agricultural technology entrepreneurs.
Primary Industries and Regional Development minister Tim Whetstone described the level of support for the inaugural conference as outstanding, with more than 300 registrations.
"It was a good balance of established agtech businesses and startups who were able to engage with primary producers," he said.
"We need to be doing more to help advanced agriculture and to do that we need to engage with our primary producers and give them every tool to strengthen their businesses and make them globally competitive.
"The ag technology sector holds some of the most exciting opportunities within the agriculture industry today."
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