After 20 months’ intensive research and development, the Ovine Automation Consortium is ready to go to market with two robotic machines that signal the start of a new era in automated sheep meat processing.
Funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI) and nine industry members, with the support of two research organisations, the research consortium aims to enhance sheep processing productivity and quality through the use of automation.
The two new pieces of robotic ‘kit’ are tailor-made for New Zealand sheep-processing chains, and were developed in direct response to industry needs, says Richard McColl, Ovine Automation consortium manager.
“We are delivering exactly what the industry has asked for. Our industry partners recognise the immense value of R&D and the gains promised from advanced automated engineering. Significantly, they’ve also chosen to collaborate as members of a consortium to get maximum benefit from this, and to collectively boost one of New Zealand’s largest export earners,” Mr McColl says.
Mr McColl says that the benefits of the new knowledge of technology extend beyond sheep processing.
Dr Richard Templer, MSI Group Manager Industry and Environment says the Ovine Automation research consortium is one of 14 research consortia funded by MSI where the private sector partners match the Government’s funding dollar-for-dollar. The consortium was funded $8.3 million for this project, and matched this amount.
“Consortia are designed to benefit their sector, through the transfer of knowledge and technology from research organisations, and to have a positive impact on the economy.
“As well as partnering research organisations with industry, research consortia pave the way for collaboration among industry members. The meat processing industry members set an excellent example, and MSI will continue to invest in consortia to ensure that industries critical to our economy gain and retain an international competitive edge through their uptake of innovative R&D,” Dr Templer says.
Meat industry processing company members of the consortium include Alliance Group Ltd, Silver Fern Farms, ANZCO Foods, Blue Sky Meats, Auckland Meat Processors, Crusader Meats, Taylor Preston Ltd, Progressive Meats, and Ovation New Zealand Ltd.
The consortium research organisations are Industrial Research Ltd and RealCold Millers Mechanical Ltd.