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Chicken farmers adapt NASA’s Mars technology

Weighing chickens and monitoring their development can be a time-consuming business and a single worker is only likely to complete a small sample by hand each week. And while remotely monitored scales can help, they suffer from blind spots in the poultry house.

But now an agri-tech start up company Thrive Multi Visual is devising a chicken-weighing robot based on the rover developed by NASA to explore the red planet Mars.

The company plans to kit out the vehicle with cameras that can weigh chickens by sight alone. Thermal-imaging fear and other gadgets will monitor indicators such as body heat and humidity.

Photo: Dick van Doorn
Photo: Dick van Doorn

Space technology

And an indoors GPS system, also adapted from space technology, will allow the robot to drive itself around and self-charge, while sensors will prevent it running over birds.

Thrive MV is one of 7 companies supported by the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre, which is based at Harwell, Oxon.

Claire Lewis, Thrive MV chief executive, said there were a number of start-up firms applying space technology to farming.

She told the Economist that one of the reasons so many farming start-ups were repurposing space hardware was that farmers were slow to adopt new technology, leaving the door open for entrepreneurs to exploit.

The sector also suffered from paltry data collection, and it was also helpful, she said, that space technology is so robust and designed to withstand toxic substance, making it ideal for farm life.

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