French technology company Tibot believes its new autonomous robot Spoutnic will be a real boost in reducing the number of eggs on the floor in poultry units.
The robot, which was first exhibited in the autumn at SPACE, an annual French livestock show, circulates among the flock to encourage the hens to move and to lay eggs in nest boxes rather than the floor.
In the long-run, it trains them to develop good habits and reduces the exhausting work of gathering downgraded eggs.
Results of experiments using Spoutnic found a 23% decrease in 15 days in floor-eggs compared to case control, when using breeding hens on wood-shavings litter in a ground level feeding system. The farmer walked through the hens barn half as often.
In units dedicated to raise broilers, operators try to prevent the birds from staying dormant for too long for similar productivity reasons as broilers experience greater weight gains when they are more active.
To prevent the birds from getting used to a certain routine, the robot can also change its lights and sounds.
The machine can also perform other important tasks including spraying vaccinations and disinfectants, monitor chicken performance and mark locations of dead chickens, producing a map of where it has worked and what it has done during each shift.
Steve Roger, turkey breeder in Saint-Sturnin-du-Limet, France, said the robot had worked well with his flock of broiler turkeys: “To get them to move, Spoutnic is the best and does so smoothly. I improved my quality of life as well as the technical and economic performance of my farm.”
The robot’s all-terrain feature allows it to move under feed mechanisms and work on uneven litter. The battery is recharged using a plug, allowing it to work for up to eight hours a day, at either slow, medium or fast speeds, depending on the flock.
It if meets an obstacle, such as a wall, nest, hopper base or dead bird, the 10kg robot detects and by-passes it.
Lisa Bishop, communications manager for Chicken Farmers of Canada, said the potential for such technology was tremendous: “Farmers are always innovating and looking for new ways to take care of their birds, so this robot is a tremendous tool,” she told the Western Producer.