June 6, 2023


US research institutions receive $5 million grant to advance AI and robotics in poultry processing



Four prominent US research institutions have received US$5 million from the US Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture in developing artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics specifically designed for the poultry industry's processing sector, Poultry World reported.


These research organisations, the University of Arkansas, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Fort State Valley University, have come together to establish the Centre for Scalable and Intelligent Automation in Poultry Processing. Their primary objective is to integrate AI, machine learning, and robotics to enhance operations and sanitation in chicken meat processing.


Project director Jeyam Subbiah highlighted that the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station would receive nearly half of the grant (US$2.2 million) to focus on automating food safety measures in poultry processing plants.


The urgency to automate chicken processing arose during the COVID-19 pandemic when the virus spread rapidly among processing line workers, making it challenging to hire an adequate workforce.


The researchers identified the limitations of robotic hands in handling chickens and the necessity for new technology to prevent dropping slippery meats. Another challenge lies in accurately separating chicken carcasses into specific cuts of meat.


Donyi Wang, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, said that it is difficult to teach people to use a knife with precision in this process.

Wang said human deboners leave about 13% of meat on the bones. Automated deboners leave 16-17%. On an industrial scale, that's a significant loss in value.


Additionally, Wang and Subbiah will develop hyperspectral imaging technology to detect plastics in chicken meat. Wang will also create a mobile robot equipped with a biosensor to generate a biological map of the facility, assessing the effectiveness of sanitation. When the bio map indicates potential hotspots, the robot will automatically collect swabs for bacteria testing.


The Georgia Institute of Technology will receive US$2.1 million of the grant to focus on automating the processing lines responsible for transforming live chickens into meat. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, on the other hand, will receive the remaining financial support. Julia McQuillan, professor of sociology, will lead a study examining the effects of robotics on poultry industry workers and their perceptions of the technology.


-      Poultry World

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