Rights: © Copyright 2014. University of Waikato. All rights reserved. Published 9 June 2014 Download

The Ovine Automation Consortium (OAL) is a unique collaboration between key players in New Zealand’s meat processing industry. It includes numerous meat companies, along with two research providers and the meat industry bodies. In this video clip, Richard McColl (Manager, OAL) and Geoff Bates (Callaghan Innovation) explain that OAL is developing robotic technologies to improve the processing of sheep carcasses and make it more efficient. They point out that it’s unique to have so many companies involved in the consortium, and emphasise the power of close collaboration between industry and research.

Teaching point
Students could identify and discuss the advantages and benefits of collaboration.


Richard McColl
OAL was originally conceived back in 2008 when the meat companies, the four major meat companies sort of got together to recognise that they needed to make a step change in the technology.

The technology’s designed for ovine processing, so we’re hoping to be able to commercialise into the ovine sector, to commercialise the technologies being developed, and they are a suite of technologies around carcass evisceration and pelt removal in the first instance.

Geoff Bates
So the innovation is really about bringing all the parties together. We’ve got almost all the meat industry together. We’ve got a couple of research providers involved and then the meat industry bodies as well involved, which is quite unique to have so many companies together, and it gives us the horsepower to leverage the input of each individual party to really achieve some outcomes.

And research and development is inherently very expensive, and to get a reward from that, you need a lot of users, which having all the users as part of the organisation is great, but also you need a lot of funding to make it happen, and of course, with that collaboration, that’s exactly what we’ve got.

What’s unique here is that we’re doing the research with heaps of input from the industry, so the industry itself is actually giving us all their accumulated knowledge, and they’re sharing it amongst themselves. The meat industry is very efficient at processing animals, but because of that, they’re very competitive, and to actually be sharing in the way they are is really, it’s unusual, and it’s really, really good, and it’s resulting in a bigger outcome for everybody that’s involved in it.

Richard McColl
From my perspective, the biggest success outside of the research is bringing together institutional knowledge of all the companies together in a very apolitical way where they are able to share it, whereas before, it was all done in silos by individual companies.

Geoff Bates
There’s two major outcomes. One is an improvement in processing, which means you get potentially a longer shelf life so you can get higher value for the product, and the other is it becomes more efficient, so the farmer gets a higher return, if you like, per animal, and the industry can compete more with its competitors.

Video courtesy of Kiwi Innovation Network Limited
© Kiwi Innovation Network Limited, 2013