2020 - Volume #44, Issue #2, Page #26[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Robot Picks Up Dead Birds In Poultry Barns
“I got the idea when Costco was first planning to build a chicken processing plant and production barns in our area,” says Scott Niewohner, Dynamic Motion. “A cousin said he was interested in raising birds for them, but didn’t want to deal with dead birds.”
Niewohner is a self-employed problem solver, having built a lot of machinery. It was something he wanted to pass on to his son Lucas as he helped him expand his technical skills.
“He is a computer whiz, but there was no technology beyond the core curriculum at his high school,” says Niewohner. “I wanted to challenge him to work with microprocessors and code.”
Niewohner initially worked with a friend with the needed technical skills. While the friend wrote most of the code to operate the robot’s cameras, Niewohner’s son made needed changes and is now handling all programming.
The result is a machine on tracks about the size of a wheelchair. A tined loader picks up dead birds, drops them in a tray for later dumping.
As it travels through the barn, a row of small discs stirs the bedding. The litter tilling was a first step in the robot’s development as Niewohner researched poultry barn conditions.
“If you can keep bedding turned, it helps maintain animal health,” explains Niewohner.
They entered the prototype in the Ag Tech Innovation Competition at the Nebraska Power Farming Show this past November. The judges liked what they saw and awarded the company the $5,000 Peoples Choice award and the $20,000 grand prize.
The chicken robot is still in the prototype stage as Niewohner and his son refine the computer vision and other features needed for bird recovery.
Niewohner hopes to bring it to market within 12 mos. Meanwhile it is being used in poultry barns. One of the challenges, he explains, is to scare the birds away from the machine, but not scare them too much.
“We have half a million birds within 20 miles, and we have gone through biosecurity training so we can go in and test anytime we want,” says Niewohner. “We want to have a fully functioning prototype and then find 5 to 10 early adopters to put it to work.”
Niewohner is looking for someone with the right skills to help complete the project and grow with the company.
Niewohner is already working on variations of the original prototype. They include a smaller, more compact version for chicken barns and a larger version for turkey producers. He also has a version that is designed to power wash hog barns.
Meanwhile Niewohner’s secondary goal has been met. His son continues to be involved in every aspect of the robot’s development.
“It is awesome seeing the light bulb go on as he works with a problem,” says Niewohner.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dynamic Motion, 19994 County Road 19, Herman, Neb. 68029 (ph 402 616-4924; email@example.com).
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