By: Project Co-ordinator, Alex Mason
For many 2020 has been an awful year. One to forget. However, it has shown the absolutely important role that automation will have to play in the future of the meat industry – and food processing at large – I write this after hearing recently of another processing plant closure in Norway resulting of COVID‐19. That means the goals of RoBUTCHER are more important than ever, and the potential impact is greater than we have imagined.
Despite the challenges, we have made progress. We better understand some of the legal and social challenges or hurdles facing the “Meat Factory Cell” concept, and even make steps toward considering how to minimise their impact on implementation. We have lots of new software – so called “AI” – to hopefully help our sleepy robots at NMBU jump into action and start performing their first real cuts. Yes, they have had a good time resting in 2020, but soon they will be working overtime! Naturally, the road to these AI’s has been more complicated than we have imagined, but somehow we have managed through good collaboration and determination to “get the job done”.
Of course, AI is not the only new development; we have several knives and a saw in our toolbox now, along with not just one but two promising gripper systems. Even more promising, the cell itself nears a state of readiness, with Dexter (the robot) now united with a new pedestal so that he can finally stand tall and proud alongside Ole (the other robot).
Of course, there is still a lot to do, and I hope that we can keep the spirit and passion for the project that we have had this past year. We cross our fingers that COVID‐19 also becomes a thing of the past, but if not, the message is clear: we will find a way to go on. Also remember what seemed at the time a sort of RoBUTCHER motto: “Make it work, then make it better”.