Solar-powered robotics that raise chickens in a fully independent barn…How cool is that!?
Manitoba-based Ukkö Robotics has developed a modular chicken barn, called the ROVA, that might just revolutionize farm management systems. It uses automated features to manage the day-to-day tasks involved in raising chickens. In short, it can provide farmers with a self-sufficient poultry operation.
The ROVA was on public display at the Dare to Do technology launch event, held September 19 near the RM of Springfield, just east of Winnipeg. Hosted by North Forge Technology Exchange, many were on hand to get a first glimpse of this exciting new technology.
“Ukkö Robotics is a great example of how young innovators can create efficient, environmentally minded solutions that can disrupt the traditional ways we do things,” said Jeff Ryzner, President of North Forge.
Clean technology and artificial intelligence
After considering some of the challenges that the agriculture sector faces today, Ukkö Robotics was determined to address them head-on using clean technology and artificial intelligence.
“We came to the realization that maybe we’ve been looking at the barn design wrong this whole time,” said co-founder, Daniel Badiou.
“The traditional poultry barn is ineffective and outdated. We believe that a completely automated, moving barn can solve many issues that traditional barns currently have, such as lack of time and high labour costs. Our design and mobile app now make it possible for farmers and non-farmers to raise the animals they want with ease,” he explained.
Impacting livestock management
ROVA is making the farm-to-table mentality accessible to all.
The 17 x 30 foot modular barn relies on artificial intelligence and automated features to maintain heat, grass, litter and water distribution, with a monitoring system that can link to a mobile device. ROVA is 100 per cent solar-powered with a five-day battery reserve.
The ROVA sits on wheels and is self-moving, so it searches out fresh areas of grass daily to provide food for the chickens. An onboard GPS gives farmers the ability to track field position and predetermine ROVA’s path without manual intervention. On top of all of this technology, ROVA continually collects data through the mobile app to improve and update its system.
There are several options when it comes to model sizes, from single families who want to raise a couple of chickens to large poultry farms. The largest model has the capacity for up to 200 chickens and each unit can hold up to three days of egg storage.
Getting a start in rural Manitoba
Daniel remembers how Ukkö Robotics took root in his dad’s shop close to Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Manitoba. “I was back from university for the summer and was talking to my sister about the demands in agriculture these days,” he explained. His sister was pursuing a degree in agriculture at the University of Manitoba and advised that any animal raised on-pasture is currently in demand.
“I combined that information with my knowledge in robotics and built my first prototype in my dad’s shop that same weekend,” said Daniel.
At the time, Daniel was studying mechatronics engineering at Polytechnique Montréal where he met Katrina Jean-Laflamme, who also has a background in engineering. Together, they co-founded Ukkö Robotics.
“Katrina moved from Montreal to join me in this adventure in 2016 and we’ve been building one to two prototypes per year,” he explained.
Breaking ground as an emerging startup
Daniel said that the pair quickly outgrew their initial set-up at the family farm in Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes.
“We had Ukkö Robotics with all of these robots running in my dads’ field and we wanted to take it to the next step — which was getting a team together and getting a space to do this every day,” he said.
Daniel explained that an important step was getting involved with the North Forge Technology Exchange, an innovation-based economic development agency in Manitoba.
“We took the Tuesday night North Forge Fabrication Lab Tour and instantly knew we were at the right place to develop something.” They next secured a space to work in the city and now have a team of five to further developing their disruptive ag technology.
Daniel has high praise for the assistance North Forge can provide emerging startups. “Aside from giving access to tools, North Forge has pointed us in the right direction in getting those first steps of a startup company in place. Ranging from financial, legal, marketing and so much more, they were able to give us insight into what should be a next step or an option to look out for,” he said.
The future of ROVA and Ukkö Robotics
As with any startup and innovative company, this is just the beginning of the Ukkö Robotics vision.
“When we have ROVA commercialized, we’ll have many other attachments for the robot to accommodate different animals. Essentially, it will include the tools to raise all small animals,” Daniel said.
“Moving past ROVA, we are starting work on the hybrid farm, meaning that our farm equipment will work mostly on renewable energy. But when it needs a bit more power, a generator would kick in.”
Daniel sees Ukkö Robotics as having a hand in disrupting the farming industry much like the paths of other industries have been dramatically altered in recent years.
“There are many advancements in transportation with hybrid vehicles, but not many in the agricultural sector – or many other sectors for that matter,” he said. “That’s where Ukkö Robotics wants to fit in.”