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Robotic sheepdogs unlikely, Kiwi farmers say

Media Release
19 September 2014

Robotic sheepdogs unlikely, Kiwi farmers say

At the risk of being out of step with technology, Federated Farmers is dubious robotic sheepdogs will replace the real thing anytime soon. Reported late last month, European academics believe they have created an algorithm simulating sheepdog behaviour.

“I am not saying it won’t come to pass but it’ll be more like one farmer robot and its droid than dog trials being replaced by droid trials,” says Rick Powdrell, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre spokesperson.
“Anyone who works with dogs and sheep knows there’s more to this than an algorithm.

“For starters, there is a primordial instinctive connection between the two animals. How you simulate that I have no idea.

“Another reason comes down to the sheer agility of working dogs across unforgiving terrain.

“Then there is the question of endurance.

“After a few dog biscuits and water dogs are ready to go, but since my smartphone struggles to get through a full day, the idea of a robotic dog running out of puff in the back blocks doesn’t excite me.

“I don’t think I have ever had to reboot one of my dogs either.

“Our guys are increasingly using drones and autonomy may be massive for rural security, but that last element is for the future. Robotic dogs seem a bridge too far but then again, the world’s first synthetic meat patty cost £250,000. If someone wants to I guess they will.

“This research may have more applications off-farm, say, for crowd control.

“I guess the more we seek to replace what’s natural and genuine, inevitably, the greater premium that’ll be placed on those products. I look at natural renewable wool which comes off a sheep’s back as being a bit like Swiss watches.

“Swiss watches took a hit when digital watches first came out, but it conversely led to a rush back to quality and wool to me is just like that. These are all reasons for why farmers need to read up on the Wool Levy Referendum and most importantly, vote.

“There’s more than the General Election going on.

“The Swiss Watch industry didn’t leave it to chance or to market forces but clubbed together to accentuate the values, quality and status of what they make. They’ll be doing this anew with Apple’s latest offering. I guess it reinforces what the Wool Levy Group is saying about coming together for wool,” Mr Powdrell concluded.


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