Bot McDonald Had a Farm...

Since robots are becoming integrated in virtually every other aspect of human society, it was inevitable that they'd get involved in farming as well. We have robots that help inspect crops, pick out weeds, and even estimate yields.

Now though, farming robotics is going a step further. Introducing: robot ranchers. The Australian Centre for Field Robotics is building a machine that can autonomously run livestock farms. Developed from a previous project named "Shrimp," the bot will be going through a two-year trial next month. Testing will take place at several farms near New South Wales province in Australia.

Australian Centre for Field Robotics

In the trial, the bot will be herding livestock, keeping an eye on their health, and checking if they have enough pasture to graze on. The bot will also have color, texture and shape sensors looking down at the ground to check pasture quality. It uses thermal and vision sensors that detect changes in body temperature and walking gait to monitor animal health and well-being, according to Salah Sukkarieh of the University of Sydney to New Scientist.

No Threat Here

The topic of autonomous working robots can stir up fears of human replacement. However, it is the opposite case in the Australian Outback. The large farms and the unavailability of help make the development of this technology imperative.

“It’s farmers who are driving this because labor is in short supply and they are looking for technological assistance,” says Sukkarieh.

Farmers aren't the only ones who benefit. The bot helps increase quality of life of the animals and makes maintenance of large farms easier, giving the livestock larger areas to roam free. It also removes the necessity of feedlots, which keep livestock in closely confined areas that are easy to oversee.

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