June 12, 2009
Nine New Zealand meat companies have cast aside their differences in a NZ$16.7 million partnership with a government research fund to further automate sheep processing. Meat Industry Association Chief Executive Tim Ritchie said the partnership was the most significant innovation undertaken by the industry in 20 years.
He said it would deliver productivity gains of up to NZ$43 million a year within five years.
"Like other processing industries, the meat industry urgently needs tailored automation solutions that can improve productivity and profitability," Ritchie said.
Researchers plan to use state-of-the-art sensing and robotic technology to fully automate the early stages of sheep processing, including removing the pelt and the internal organs. The technology will reduce the number of people needed on each processing chain by 18 per shift, improve pelt and meat quality and cut costs related to accidents and injuries.
"The project will make jobs in the meat industry more attractive," said Ritchie. "Rather than carrying out repetitive and heavy manual labor, workers will be operators of sophisticated technology."
Ritchie said the involvement of most of the large and small players in sheep processing in New Zealand dispelled the myth that the industry did not collaborate.
Reprinted in part from MeatInternational.com