The aim of the Greenfield Project is to see whether robots, called automatic milking systems, can replace people to do the milking on New Zealand farms. Although automatic milking systems are used overseas, the Greenfield project was set up to find out whether the system will work for New Zealand's pasture-based farming systems. The team have also been developing technology to measure ("sense") specific milk components as the cow is milked. This is an area with much potential for future research and development. Jenny Jago and Rod Claycomb explain.
Dr Jenny Jago (formerly Dexcel)
The Greenfield project is all about automatic milking, and can we milk cows in a way that is very different from what currently happens on farms - in other words, taking the human element out of milking. Automatic milking essentially means that we have a robotic arm that carries out the whole milking process.
If you look at what happens on farms at the moment, people bring cows to a milking shed or a dairy, and they manually attach teat cups and then the cow is milked with the machine. So we are looking to see if we can take that human element out of the milking process so that the cows milk themselves. So we’ve got a milking robot, or an Automatic Milking System, that we have bought in from overseas, and we’ve got it here on our research farm. And we are looking to see whether we can milk our cows, or whether the cows can milk themselves actually, in a New Zealand situation
Dr Kendra Davis (
The Greenfield project is not just about robotic milking, but it’s about automation on dairy farms. Its about trying to minimise the amount of manual labour we do on dairy farms. So one of the key things, obviously that we are looking at is the automation of the milking process. But there is also automation of other processes, and lots of things we haven’t gotten into yet that we plan to.
Dr Rod Claycomb (
There are two main objectives in this project. Dexcel’s [now DairyNZ] main objective is to see how robotic milking can be applied to New Zealand pastoral-style grazing systems. Sensortec’s objective is to develop the sensor technologies that can help measure things in the milk on farms. And since the project has gotten started we’ve also looked at a sideline business which is how to take things out of milk on farms so how to fractionate high value components on farms - basically trying to turn the dairy farm from just a place of producing milk, to a food manufacturing facility.