A robot to muster livestock, control weeds and send pasture quality and soil moisture data to the farm computer is no longer a fantasy.
Australia’s newest farm hand
SwagBot, an Australian innovation, is in early prototype phase and according to its developer Professor Salah Sukkarieh of the University of Sydney, eventually it may be as common place on farm as an ATV.
“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 a world-leading innovation in on farm robotics, overcoming the unique challenges of the Australian environment including extreme temperatures, dust, moisture and rough terrain.
What can it do?
Battery-powered with solar re-charging capability, it can be directed by remote control or its path and speed pre-set through the application of GPS and collision avoidance technology.
The project team has even programmed it to interact with livestock, detect certain weeds such as serrated tussock and African box thorn and, with equipment modifications, 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.”
SwagBot updates at Beef Australia 2018
Salah will share updates on this research when he speaks at Meat and Livestock Australia's Fostering beef's prosperity: fork to farm seminar at Beef Australia 2018. It’s one of the many MLA events being held during Beef Australia 2018 from 6–12 May.