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Food and Beverages | Friday, December 03, 2021
An industrial revolution is underway as modern technology is introduced into the poultry, agriculture, and food manufacturing industries.
Fremont, CA; Businesses are on the verge of the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, which is characterized by the convergence of numerous technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), autonomous systems, nanotechnologies, quantum computing, and a fully interconnected internet of things. This convergence of enabling technologies has the potential to radically alter the notion of employment since it anticipates a future production floor without the need for workers to be physically present.
With the coming Industry 4.0 paradigm as a backdrop, a future chicken processing facility could appear drastically different in 20 years. While the poultry industry's automation is considered advanced in comparison to other animal protein manufacturing/processing processes, closer analysis reveals that the basic processing activities have remained essentially unaltered for the previous 50 years. They're made up of a combination of old procedures and tools that have been updated with new materials and unit process technology.
The natural unpredictability, flexibility, and deformable qualities of chicken processing and the food safety and perishable nature of the product have all been hurdles compared to traditional production. These have been significant roadblocks in automating desired throughput, yield, and quality measurements. Many of these issues can be overcome under the Industry 4.0 paradigm, where each carcass is completely scanned and then processed as a single unit or lot. Consider a networked array of sensors/cameras linked to high-performance cloud computing resources that can develop unique cutting paths for a single carcass in real time. This data and information are then supplied into a single work cell with multiple robots that are coordinated to perform the appropriate carcass manipulation and cutting operations. The carcass is the work cell's input, and the intended products, as well as the divided frames, are the outputs.
The Georgia Tech Research Institute's Agricultural Technology Research Program (ATRP) has been investing extensively in highly revolutionary technology breakthroughs that use Industry 4.0 ideas. Their Poultry Plant of the Future strategic initiative includes the creation of virtual reality concepts that allow robotics to be controlled remotely, novel paradigms for sensing and processing carcasses in individual work cells, AI-driven robotic solutions for performing cuts and manipulating products in processing, and the deployment or development of advanced sensors to perform input product characterization in support of advanced manipulation. These projects are pieces of a larger puzzle that, when finished, will reveal a completely altered poultry production and processing business that looks nothing like it does now.