Robots are popping up everywhere from San Francisco to Tokyo…. to Schuyler, Nebraska? That’s right we got robot cowboys! A 450-pound robot has been driving cattle and keeping workers safe at a Cargill beef plant.
Robot Cowboy Directs Cattle at Cargill Beef Plant
The bot was initially designed to work in a security role, but plant operations manager Brad Churchill felt that with a few modifications it could serve better as a cowboy than Robocop.
He said “One of our vendors sent me a link to a video. And probably within 10 seconds of watching the video, I just immediately knew we could move cattle with that kind of robot.”
The rugged robot is made of metal and features wheels that can quickly move around the trampled and sometimes muddied ground. Things aren’t all hi-tech as the cowboy robot walks around waving trash bags attached to its “arms,” to direct the cattle. A human controls the action remotely from an overhead catwalk. If some cows aren’t moving fast enough, the robot cowboy can try to motivate the animals by yelling “Hey! Hey! Hey! Come on. Let’s move it!”
Robot Helps Keep Humans Away From 1500 Pound Animals
All jokes aside, herding cattle is dangerous work. The average bovine weighs about three quarters of a ton and the plant processes about 5000 of them per day. Human employees at the Cargill plant have to wear lacrosse helmets and chest protectors to get even near the animals. While the workers still have to be in the pens, the robot helps keep them at a farther distance from the dangerous animals.
“From a safety standpoint you don’t have to have an individual there pushing cattle forward,” said Sammy Renteria, general manager at the plant. “So, if the animal decides to turn, it’s not a person hurt. It’s just a machine that we can fix.”
While the company is continuing to update and modify the robot, they plan to introduce the tech in other Cargill locations to interact with cattle and other aggressive animals such as turkeys.
“I believe this could be used someday in all of our beef facilities and beyond,” Churchill said. “Finding technology that helps keep our people safe and improves animal welfare is a big win.”