New £2.5M project to develop autonomous cow cubicle bedding system

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The University of Liverpool is part of a £2.5million Innovate UK project to develop a cutting-edge autonomous system to change cows’ bedding and improve their health, welfare and productivity.

Supported by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the AG ARC project, led by Garnett Farm Engineering, will develop an autonomous cow cubicle bedding unit in collaboration with researchers Drs Ian Sandall and Heba Lakany from the University’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics and Dr Joseph Neary and Professor Rob Smith from the Institute of Infection, Veterinary, and Ecological Sciences.

Cow comfort is a key factor in reducing the chances of cows suffering from mastitis, a fatal inflammation of their mammary gland, with dry and clean bedding and careful management of cubicles being vital.

Currently, this must be done manually by farmers, but this project will develop an intelligent robotic cubicle bedder to monitor and respond to key sensor data to optimise dispensing of bedding. This will help to boost cow health and welfare, improve farm productivity and reduce costs through efficient use of bedding.

Dr Neary, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Livestock & One Health at the University of Liverpool said: “We are delighted to be working on this cutting-edge project that fosters inter-disciplinary working between Garnett Farm Engineering and the Institute of Infection, Veterinary, and Ecological Sciences and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics.  By using AI we can address agricultural issues and make a significant difference to the farming industry.”

Andrew Garnett, of AG Products, added: “We look forward to collaborating with the University of Liverpool on this exciting project to further enhance our cattle bedding solutions to farmers, improving cow welfare and productivity. Our passion for innovation has seen the recent launch of the AG Duo; the AG ARC will further revolutionise the industry’s approach to cattle bedding

“The government funding aims to support research and development on proposals to boost agricultural productivity, sustainability and climate resilience.”

The AG ARC project is one of only three projects funded through a government investment of £9.13 million to develop cutting-edge farming technology through the Farming Innovation Programme.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “It’s important that we fund projects like these – and those still to come in future rounds – as we support farmers to deliver sustainable food production and protect the environment.

“Innovation, research and development will help keep the sector at the cutting edge of technology as we look into the future.”