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Innovations & New Technology

AWI invests in research into alternative wool harvesting technology to improve workplace safety, boost clip quality and encourage new entrants into the industry.

AWI ROBOTICS PROGRAM: EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST SOUGHT

AWI is investing in robotics development to optimise wool harvesting for safety, welfare, clip quality and cost competitiveness. To enable the development of its robotics program, AWI is seeking expressions of interest (EOI) for the development of robotic wool harvesting solutions. AWI is also seeking EOIs to join its Robotic Advisory Group to assist the development of the program.

EOI for robotic wool harvesting solutions

AWI is seeking EOIs worldwide from universities, entrepreneurs, engineering companies, start-ups and other organisations for the development of robotic sheep wool harvesting solutions. The first steps have been taken to bring “off-the-shelf” robotic technology to shearing by the publishing of a scoping study providing a comprehensive understanding of how modern robotics technology could work within the shearing profession – see the final report below. The next phase is the selection and funding of proposals to develop automatic systems that can enhance, partially replace and/or optimise shearers’ work.

The EOI documentation and form can be downloaded here. EOIs should be submitted by 31 May 2019.

EOI to join Robotic Advisory Group

AWI is also seeking OEI from interested parties, including woolgrowers, to join its Robotic Advisory Group to assist the development of the program. Selection criteria includes a good understanding of the shearing process, challenges and opportunities, skills in entrepreneurship or engineering and the ability to think critically and strategically.

The full selection criteria and instructions on how to submit your EOI can be downloaded here. EOIs should be submitted by 30 April 2019.

Enquiries regarding the EOIs should be directed to AWI project officer Joshua Manzie at joshua.manzie@wool.com

Robotic Assisted Shearing Scoping Study

This project was a scoping study to develop a comprehensive understanding of how modern robotics technology could work within the shearing profession.

The key criteria that guided the project were:

  • Embed shearing industry leaders as advisors to the engineers;
  • Ensure the safety and welfare of the animal;
  • Ensure the safety and welfare of the shearer;
  • Ensure the quality of wool harvested.

Incorporating modern robotics into some elements of the process of shearing offers the potential to enhance the physical and mental wellbeing of both shearers and sheep. The robotic system is being designed to reduce some of the physical strains and risks when shearing, including shearers being bent over for extended period of time creating strain on the back, and instead allowing the shearer to work in a safer and comfortable more upright position.

The project has successfully used robotic technology to mimic the movements of shearing along the body of a life-size 3D printed sheep.

The next phase of the project will use the new knowledge of robotic technology and refine the software and hardware of the technology for commercial potential in the wool harvesting industry.

The use of the 3D printed sheep ensured no sheep were used in the testing of the prototype and therefore no sheep were put at risk of being harmed in the testing of this technology.

Further Information

Download the Scoping Study on Semi Autonomous Shearing: Final Report (8.6MB)

 

Innovative Shearing Industry Technologies

The Peak Hill Industries ShearEzy shearing system is a successful alternative to "on the board" shearing that eliminates the need to catch and drag sheep. The ShearEzy provides the shearer with a comfortable, "stand up," working environment and meets the highest standards in wool preparation and shearer safety technology.

The ShearEzy is a product of AWI investment in Upright Posture Shearing Platform (UPSP) technologies. The product became commercially available in late 2007, with the most recent version released in June 2012. ShearEzy benefits include:

  • Reduced physical effort and strain from shearing.
  • Can be more productive than "on the board" shearing, especially for the novice or average shearer.
  • Simpler blow patterns and effective animal restraints.
  • Easy separation of crutchings and lower quality wools.
  • Other animal husbandry tasks may done as part of the shearing process.
  • Large sheep and rams are easily and safely handled without sedation. ShearEzyis an air-operated system, consisting of a shearing platform with an integrated parallel sheep loader. Sheep walk into the loader on an inclined, non-backup ramp and are confined until ready to be shorn.
 
Shearing sheep with an Upright Posture Shearing Platform (UPSP).

The loader clamps the sheep then tilts and inverts the sheep placing it on the platform. The sheep can be crutched in this restrained position then released from the clamp.

To shear the sheep, the rear legs are restrained as the sheep lies horizontal between the hinged up wings of the platform.  Rotating leg restraints and the hinged wings allow the shearer to mechanically manipulate the sheep to each desired position through the shearing process. Optimal flat surfaces for the shearer allow long continuous blows around most of the body of the sheep.

Heiniger EVO anti-lock technology attached to a balanced boom and flexible drive improves safety and productivity.

New features of the 2012 version of ShearEzy include:

  • Reduced height and overall length.
  • Better sheep flow due to sheep entering the machine at a lower level.
  • Fleece removal from the side where the sheep is shorn, reducing space requirements.
  • More adjustments both for the size of sheep and the operator.
  • The main ShearEzy can be unit can be reduced to 1.8 metres long and 1.2 metres wide and is fitted with large solid rubber wheels to make it easy to move about, and roll onto a ute or trailer.
  • A price reduction to $15,100 plus GST ex the factory. This includes the shearing plant and stand, and the non-backup ramp. An eight cubic foot per minute air compressor and handpiece are also required.

Further Information

Peak Hill Industries ShearEzy - click the links to:

Other innovations and technologies will be uploaded shortly.