Te Awamutu students learn about the role of robotics in the agri-food sector

Posted by on 28 August 2019 | Comments

A group of Waikato students is learning how robotics is being used to overhaul careers in the agri-food sector.

About 80 students from Te Awamutu College visited a local 80-cow dairy farm which owns a Lely robot.

The state of the art milking machine enables Ian and Sharon Commins’ cows to milk themselves.

“It’s a really high-tech set up which removes the labour-intensive part of harvesting milk,” said Casey Huffstutler from NZ Young Farmers.

“The students loved watching the robotic arm extending towards each cow’s udder and attaching the milking equipment.”

“The robot collects a huge amount of usable data from each animal, allowing farmers to spot health problems with cows sooner,” she said.

Casey organised the field trip after receiving a phone call from Te Awamutu College teacher David Prout back in April.

David wanted to showcase the technology and innovation being used in agriculture to his Years 11-13 science classes.

The school’s using free learning resources from the Agrication website, which is funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP).

As part of the trip, students visited the workshop and depot of agricultural contracting business John Austin Ltd.

They were given an insight into the technology being used in harvesters, choppers and speed seeders, and John Austin explained how innovation is helping to improve soil structures.

“A rep from Agrowquip told us about 250 John Deere tractors a day are produced by the company’s factories in the United States and Germany,” said Year 11 student Brad Greenhalgh.

“The pace at which these massive pieces of equipment can be assembled is unbelievable.”

Students also visited Andrew Wellington’s 400-hectare farm which runs 4000 deer, sheep and dairy graziers.

Velvet produced by the deer is used in health products in Asia. Students got to get up-close with hinds in the deer shed.

“That was an incredible experience. Deer can be quite flighty, so it was great being able to get close and pat them,” said Brad.

“We were shown a set of antlers from a stag weighing 11 kgs.”

Students also got to tour a dairy farm producing and selling raw milk.

Brad is studying agriculture, horticulture and science and is keen to train as an agronomist when he finishes high school.