How virtual reality can be used in poultry processing

The Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Agricultural Technology Research Program is looking for ways to incorporate automation solutions into the challenging poultry processing environment beset by high turnover rates.

Rotation rates of up to 100% per year

Food processing environments are often kept cold by design to prevent the growth of pathogens, but the low temperatures and physical demands of the job, coupled with outbreaks of Covid-19, have led to turnover rates of between 40 and 100% per year.

To address this, the Agricultural Technology Research Program (ATRP) is exploring ways to combine virtual reality with factory-based robotics in certain poultry processing operations, such as cone loading, which consists of in placing chicken carcasses in a cone for further processing, after having had their legs and thighs removed.

Konrad Ahlin, a research engineer at the Georgia Research Institute of Technology, said that while cone loading seemed easy, it’s not: “The problem is having a dedicated person do it for long periods of time; it’s physically demanding on the person and it is menial and trivial work”. task that unfortunately is only necessary.”

“Virtual reality is creating this bridge where information can intuitively pass between human operators and robotic devices in a way that has never been possible before.”

ATRP’s robotics solution would enable human workers to provide key information to the robot systems performing the operation, all from a virtual reality environment. Until now, attempts to fully automate common poultry processing operations have been unsuccessful due to the irregular and malleable shapes of the birds. But Ahlin thinks this could change with virtual reality.

“Virtual reality is creating this bridge where information can intuitively pass between human operators and robotic devices in a way that has never been possible before.”

A provisional patent has been filed

ATRP has filed a provisional patent for its virtual reality research and is also working with the Georgia Research Alliance to develop a commercialization roadmap for the technology.

Gary McMurry, principal research engineer at the Georgia Research Institute of Technology, said the potential for virtual reality could be transformative: “There are many reasons this technology could have a huge impact on manufacturing, which is struggling to find people to do works. With this job, you could be sitting in West Virginia, putting on a VR headset, and working from the comfort of your own home. You’re no longer tied to geography, and that’s really powerful.”

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