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Prototype feedlot autonomous mobile robot for bunk calling

Did you know the 'BunkBot' can automatically estimate the amount of feed remaining in cattle feed bunks at a rate of 10 km/hr?

Project start date: 15 October 2018
Project end date: 31 October 2019
Publication date: 10 October 2019
Livestock species: Grainfed cattle
Relevant regions: National

Summary

A previous MLA project (B.FLT.7009) developed a 'Bunk Scanner' prototype, which can be used to determine feed remaining in cattle feed bunks with greater precision and accuracy than human operators.

The current project investigated the development of a prototype for a safe, automated vehicle to serve as a platform that can move a new model of the Bunk Scanner around feedlots.

An off-the-shelf, robotic ground vehicle was used to make the 'BunkBot' prototype, which has been upgraded with additional critical functionalities, including safety features and modified global and local navigation tools.

Objectives

The project aimed to develop a prototype of an automated feedlot mobile robot to complement the Bunk Scanner.

Key findings

  • Success of the prototype was measured by the precision, accuracy and speed of the prototype to predict feed remaining for finisher diets, which was then compared to the same results gathered from humans doing the same work.
  • The automated BunkBot prototype provided highly repeatable, precise and accurate predictions of the amount of feed remaining in feedlot bunks (troughs).
  • On average, the BunkBot had an error of 6.85kg in predicting the amount of remaining feed, which was far better than the human workers, who had a prediction error of 20.86kg. This means that the 'BunkBot' can calculate the feed intake of cattle in Australian feedlots more accurately than feedlot workers.

Benefits to industry

Short-term benefits of using BunkBot include reduced human error with bunk calling. Longer-term benefits may include an increased accuracy and frequency of objective data collection with the mobile robot, which can possibly lead to increased carcase gains.

MLA action

The BunkBot and Bunk Scanner systems were demonstrated at the 2019 Australian Lot Feeders' Association (ALFA) SmartBeef Conference in Dalby, Queensland. Both systems are commercially available now through Manabotix Pty Ltd.

Future research

An industry BunkBot demonstration site is currently being planned for 2020 at an Australian feedlot to enable lot feeders and interested industry stakeholders to view the system under commercial operating conditions.

Related resources

External guides

MLA final reports

MLA news articles

External news articles

Videos

More information

Project manager: Joseph McMeniman
Primary researcher: Manabotix Pty Ltd