Labour shortage means robots might start shearing Aussie sheep

As I’ve often found to be the case, the robotic revolution is more often filling in where there are labour shortages, rather than necessarily pushing humans out. See Australia, where there are too many sheep, reports the ABC:

Faced with a shearer shortage, [Australia’s wool industry] is spending $10 million on research to streamline wool harvesting. Projects range from better shed design to robotics, including one project that would fully automate the process of getting wool off a sheep and into a bale. Jane Littlejohn, who oversees the research arm of the industry’s research and development body Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), described automation as “forward thinking”

It’s desperately needed. According to the ABC, there are 73 million sheep in Australia, and only 2,800 shearers.

Here’s some of this research in action:

Shauna is modelled on a real shorn sheep and has been used by Mickey Clemon and his colleagues to test what’s possible with off-the-shelf technology.

“We found quite a lot is possible,” Dr Clemon said of the nine-month scoping study commissioned by AWI.

Now, my mother grew up on an Irish sheep farm. Having spent many happy summers running around with the sheep, I can confidently tell you the machine will need a lot of practice on a rather more… active participant.