The Center for Scalable and Intelligent Automation in Poultry Processing (SIAPP) is an initiative funded by a $5 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grant was awarded to the University of Arkansas and its partners to develop, evaluate, and demonstrate a new generation of advanced technologies to increase efficiency, reduce labor costs, and improve worker safety in poultry processing.
The various institutions involved are spearheading different parts of the project. The Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture, will receive $2.2 million from the grant primarily to focus on food safety automation for poultry processing plants.
Poultry plants in COVID-19
Poultry plants haven’t changed much in the past 70 to 80 years, project director Jeyam Subbiah says, but the experience of the pandemic has finally shown the urgency of automating poultry processing with transformative changes.
COVID-19 spread rapidly in poultry plants, adding to the dangers of sharp knives and close contact with poultry. Since the pandemic began, poultry processing plants have had a hard time finding workers. The labor shortage and the increased awareness of the dangers of the job provided the impetus to make changes in the process.
Automation has been attempted before, but machinery has not so far been able to cut with enough precision to avoid a great deal of waste. Robots have trouble keeping a grip on slippery chickens, and handling the variety of shapes and sizes of chickens is challenging for machines.
The new project hopes to use artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and robotic vision to make the new systems work.
Benefits of automation
Not only will automating the process help with labor shortages, worker safety, and waste, it could also allow poultry processing plants to be built in more rural areas, closer to the chicken houses on farms and on lower cost land.
One thing is for sure: motion control will be important. If you use motion control systems from Indramat, call on us when you need support or service. We are Indramat specialists, and we can facilitate factory repair or reman for your facility with fast turnaround and excellent customer service.
Image courtesy of Ark. Agricultural Experiment Station under Creative Commons license