WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND — New Zealand’s sheep meat industry is planning to spend millions of dollars on research into how using automated technology in sheep processing can increase productivity and help with labor shortages, according to NZPA, New Zealand’s national news agency.

Industrial Research Limited and Miller's Mechanical (NZ) Limited will conduct the research. Researchers plan to use state-of-the-art sensing and robotic technology to fully automate the initial stages of sheep processing.

The Foundation for Research Science and Technology indicated it was working with nine meat industry companies in the US$10.3 million research initiative. Meat companies participating in the research include Alliance Group, ANZCO, Auckland Meat Processors, Bernard Matthews, Blue Sky Meats, Crusader Meats, Progressive Meats, Silver Fern Farms and Taylor Preston.

According to Tim Ritchie, Meat Industry Association chief executive officer, the project would deliver productivity improvements of up to US$27 million a year within five years. The technology could reduce 18 people on each processing chain per shift, improve meat quality, reduce costs related to accidents and injuries, help alleviate pressures due to the labor shortages and make meat industry jobs more attractive, he added.