The Robotic Milkman


robotic milkman

As a city boy, I hated drinking milk.  I still recall the very traumatic experience of my 5th Grade class trip to an upstate dairy farm.  I am comforted to know that today the experience would feel more like an App then the soft squeeze of an utter.

The ASTRONAUT Robot has begun replacing migrant workers on 30 New York dairy farms (and more than 2,000 in Europe).  The driving force is not the increased desire for milk per se, but Yogurt, especially Greek Yogurt. “The bottom line is – all of this yogurt,” said George Haier, who recently installed a robotic milking machine on his dairy farm south of Buffalo. Increased production comes at the cost of a steep investment as a single machine is close to half a million dollars (but falls by more than 50% with multiple installations).  The high price is offset by the reduced labor cost and increased productivity.  For example, a farm of 600 cows just needs 13 robots to milk their herd bringing down labor cost by almost 30%.

The robot has been applauded by the cows alike, as it is easy and safe for the beasts.  When the nursing cow decides it’s time to be milked she enters a metal booth where a mechanical arm cleans her udder and attaches laser-guided couplers to each teat. The cow enjoys a high-energy food snack while being milked.  At the conclusion the couplers detach and a second gate opens allowing the cow to return to her corral.  There is even a computer chip on the cow’s ear to track how often she is milked. If it’s too soon, a gate swings open and she’s is kicked out (no snack!).  The coolest part is that when the machine breaks down it alerts the farmer by cellphone and repairs itself within minutes. That deserves a hearty ‘MOO’.

As an avid Chobani eater, I can really appreciate now the robotic connection to my lunch.  We just now need to find a way to replace the cows.

Reprinted with Permission

Image Credit: CC by selvin

About the author: Oliver Mitchell

Oliver Mitchell is the Founding Partner of Autonomy Ventures a New York based venture capital firm focused on seed stage investments in robotics, autonomous mobility and artificial intelligence. He has spent the last twenty years building and selling ventures, including: Holmes Protection to ADT/Tyco, Americash to American Express, and launching RobotGalaxy, a national EdTech brand. Oliver has been investing in the robotic industry for close to 10 years, with four successful exits in his angel portfolio in the past two years (including 2 IPOs). He is also a member of New York Angels and co-chairs the Frontier Tech Committee.

As father of five, Oliver launched RobotGalaxy in 2006 to fill a personal need: he wanted a wholesome activity for his son. RobotGalaxy’s patented toys were a national phenomena available at Toys’R’Us, Nordstrom Department Stores, and online that connected to a virtual world and library of mobile apps.

Before RobotGalaxy, Oliver was involved in a number of successful technology ventures and real estate developments. Oliver was part of the executive team of Softcom/IVT, an interactive video startup backed by Allen & Co., Intel Capital (NASDAQ:INTC) and Sun Microsystems. At IVT, Oliver was instrumental in expanding the market for their products with such leading broadcasters as HBO, Showtime, and Home Shopping Network.

Prior to IVT, Oliver was a founding member of AmeriCash, Inc., a network of ATMs in high traffic retail locations. AmeriCash was acquired by American Express (NYSE:AXP) within 32 months of operations. Oliver was also instrumental in the development of Holmes Protection and its sale to ADT/Tyco International (NYSE:TYC). Oliver has extensive background in merchant banking and advertising. He started his career at Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners.

Oliver holds 14 patents and has appeared on numerous television shows, including: The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Fox Business News, The Today Show, and Rachel Ray. He also serves as a mentor on the Entrepreneur Roundtable Accelerator Fund, and advises many technology companies on their growth strategies including Greensight Agronomics and Que Innovations.

Oliver is also the publisher of the well-known robotics blog Robot Rabbi and is in the midst of writing a book entitled, “An Innovator’s Field Guide: Taking Ideas From Zero to Hero.”

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