Future is in robotic technology

On site: Michael Sharpe from the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre with farmer Adrian Drury and wife Stella (at left) on the Drury farm with industry representatives.
On site: Michael Sharpe from the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre with farmer Adrian Drury and wife Stella (at left) on the Drury farm with industry representatives.

The way two Manning businesses implement technology to enhance their operations was showcased during industry walk-throughs organised by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC).

Twenty people, representing Dairy Connect, Robotics Systems, TAFE NSW, SMC Pneumatics, the Australian Industry Group, Advance Gloucester and others, visited the fully automated Drury farm at Upper Lansdowne and Croker Oars at Oxley Island. 

The businesses are focusing on integrating advanced manufacturing processes which have greatly improved output and productivity. 

Dairy farmer Adrian Drury, an electrician by trade, introduced the Swedish-made fully automated dairy on the farm three years ago. “We had seen numerous setups, mainly in barns in Europe and there was a prototype at Sydney University we had seen a few times. We liked the idea of improving the technology on the farm and we were always aware it’s always hard to get staff on dairy farms, so we thought we’d use that kind of technology to match the type of employee we would get,” he said. The change in operations means there is more of a focus on technology skills when it comes to employees. The Drury farm employs one full-timer and five part-timers in addition to the Drurys and they are working with Hunter TAFE and looking to employ a trainee from there in the near future.

“We operate now with a lot more information than we’ve had before, so technology’s provided us with a lot more updates on where the cows are and where they’re going to and their production levels, so that’s really helped in the decision making. We tend to think of outcomes, not just immediate but over a day, or two days or a week, rather than just going through the motions of getting up and milking the cows but what the outcome is, physically and financially.”

The average milking time is seven minutes and each machine milks about 70 cows a day (milking cows milk on average 2.2 to 2.3 times a day). “We had a lot of difficulty when we started up but it’s working really well now and we wouldn’t go back to milking the cows the normal old fashioned way. It's the future and our future."

The system allows cows to move around at their own pace most of the time and come to the dairy at any time of the day or night. 

Adrian said there is pressure to automate even further. “There’s a dead time at night and we think if we can get, for example a drone, to do the cow gathering in the middle of the night we can actually improve the productivity here. We’re also looking at more efficient ways to handle our effluent for environmental reasons.”

Advanced manufacturing process: Industry representatives at the Croker Oars factory at Oxley Island during a visit organised by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre.

Advanced manufacturing process: Industry representatives at the Croker Oars factory at Oxley Island during a visit organised by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre.

Director of the AMGC Michael Sharpe found the visit fascinating. “Most importantly the Drurys are looking at the whole business and using advanced technology to enhance the process. They’re looking at their distribution model and have a contract with Woolworths and are doing their own research into drone technology and how to monitor the herd day and night and leading to 24/7 milk production.”

He said walk-throughs like the ones at the Drury farm and Croker Oars are important. “Our research shows that when companies engage in research then they lift others.”