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BunkBot testing underway

17 September 2019

A new autonomous robot for manoeuvring a feed bunk scanner around a feedlot is now undergoing on-site evaluations.

The robot, known as BunkBot, is being tested at Mort & Co’s Pinegrove Feedlot, near Millmerran, Queensland, for a project funded by grainfed levies and managed by MLA in consultation with the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA).

Automation and robotics solution company Manabotix has successfully developed an automated feed bunk scanner which is more precise and accurate than human callers.

This technology outcome is available for adoption by the Australian feedlot industry, and Manabotix’s new activities have transferred the vehicle-mounted system onto BunkBot.

Manabotix Managing Director Dr Stuart McCarthy said the BunkBot is subject to an extensive evaluation process, including bunk reading operations at a continuous 10km/hour.

“The scope of this experiment campaign is 100 pens of finisher ration. We’ll be collecting feed remaining predictions from BunkBot and humans, and then we’ll recover all of the feed, weigh it back, and get the mass that’s really there and compare the accuracy of both readings,” Dr McCarthy said.

“After the experiments have been completed and we’ve been able to demonstrate that feed remaining can be predicted autonomously, more accurately and more precisely than humans, we aim to make the BunkBot technology available to lot feeders.

“The BunkBot will benefit Australian lot feeders in several ways, including improved feed utilisation, improved knowledge of feed intake by the cattle, and freeing up a human resource to get on with other jobs around the feedlot.

“We expect further down the line there will be other opportunities to improve the BunkBot’s awareness and perception around the feedlot and that might include overnight bunk reading and bunk calls, as well as other cattle behaviours within the pens.”