French firm Jeantil seems to be taking a particularly flexible approach to robot feeding with its brand-new system, seen for the first time at this year’s SIMA Show.
Rather than requiring the farmer to fit out his barn with gantries that move feed from one place to another, it essentially uses adapted machines to do the job.
The company has been working on the project for four years. The current set-up involves using a round bale silage unroller, a maize silage mixer and a straw shredder – all set up in a line – to keep a vertical feed mixer supplied with feed.
Other than requiring the farmer to replenish the feed supplies every so often, the machines can be left to their own devices, switching themselves on and off automatically when feed is needed.
An electrically powered 6cu m feed mixer with a vertical auger takes the mixed feed to the cows, using a metal strip on the ground to help it navigate its way to the right place. Jeantil says that this guidance system is more accurate than standard GPS and the slow-moving vehicle automatically stops if it touches anything.
One system has been working this year and two will be operating closing to Jeantil’s base near Rennes in Brittany through 2013. Cost is likely to be around £175,000 and the only big infrastructure requirement is that the concrete over which the machine travels should be pretty smooth.
The machines will also be kitted out with telematics systems that text/email the farmer if anything is awry. Farmers with anything from 100 to 250 cows are expected to be potential buyers.