Story image

Robotics revolution set to shake up New Zealand's primary industries

07 Apr 2017

Robotics and smart machinery could help accelerate efficiency, quality, safety - and it could save companies money, according to Professor Mike Duke from the University of Waikato’s School of Engineering.

More than 70% of the country’s exports come from the primary industries. By 2025, the MPI wants double exports to more than $64 billion.

Duke says that the way to achieve that goal could be robotics - especially in the face of increasing labour costs.

He says that the cost of importing labour, labour reliability, environmental and safety legislation are putting many companies on the back foot when it comes to profitability.

Robots, however, may cut through these issues.

“Robots have been used for decades in automotive factories and, more recently, they’ve been introduced in horticultural pack houses. However, ‘in field’ robotics is a much more difficult nut to crack, as the variability of the environment and products makes it far more difficult,” he says.

“Recent developments in computing power, algorithms and sensing, combined with advances in computer aided design and manufacturing technologies are resolving many of the problems. This will quickly lead to an army of ‘in field’ robots and smart machinery, replacing imported labour for many repetitive tasks.”

He believes that there are several examples of ‘in-field’ prototypes that are commercially viable - or a very close to it. Built in New Zealand, those prototypes can start the primary sector’s revolution.

That revolution includes harvesting, pollination, weed spraying, thinning, transportation, quality control and pasture repair.

“As the revolution progresses, we’ll have to get used to the sight of robots roaming the fields and orchards of New Zealand,” Duke says.

“There are interesting developments and opportunities linked to the introduction of robotics. One is the redesign of agricultural spaces to better utilise robots. A second is that New Zealand has a fantastic opportunity to not only improve its primary industry performance, but also export hi-tech, high-value machinery and services,” he concludes.

Security flaw in Xiaomi electric scooters could have deadly consequences
An attacker could target a rider, and then cause the scooter to suddenly brake or accelerate.
Four ways the technology landscape will change in 2019
Until now, organisations have only spoken about innovative technologies somewhat theoretically. This has left people without a solid understanding of how they will ultimately manifest in our work and personal lives.
IDC: Top 10 trends for NZ’s digital transformation
The CDO title is declining, 40% of us will be working with bots, the Net Promoter Score will be key to success, and more.
Kiwi partner named in HubSpot’s global top five
Hype & Dexter is an Auckland-based agency that specialises in providing organisations with marketing automation solutions.
Moustache Republic expands Aussie presence with new exec
The Kiwi digital commerce partner has appointed a Sydney-based director to oversee the expansion of the company’s Australian footprint.
Epson’s new EcoTank range with two years printing per tank
With 11 new EcoTank printers that give an average user two years of printing and cost just $17.99/colour to refill, Epson is ready to change the game.
Te reo Māori goes global via language app called Drops
If you’re keen to learn a few words of Māori – or as much as 90% of the language, you may want to check out an Android and iOS app called Drops.
Reckon Group announces a steady profit in 2018
Reckon continued its investment in growth throughout the year with a development spend of $14.3 million.