Milking marvel? Lely reveals new, ‘revolutionary’ robot for 2018

International agri-tech giant Lely unveiled a “revolutionary” new robotic milking machine to the Irish and UK dairy industry earlier today.

Marking a milestone of 70 years in business, the firm hosted its so-called ‘Lely Future Farm Days’. There, it took the wraps off its vision for a sustainable, fully robotic dairy farm – designed around the cow and “committed to the principle of management by exception”.

Dubbed the Astronaut A5, the compact machine was unveiled to guests – AgriLand included – at the event at the company’s headquarters in the Netherlands.

Observation of cow-machine interaction and feedback from farmers has apparently led to the creation of a system that combines “proven automatic milking principles” with “unmatched” reliability, ease of use and cost efficiency, according to the Dutch giant.

It has been “proven” that cows feel comfortable and perform well in Lely’s barn environment with ‘free cow traffic’, the I-flow concept and spacious milking boxes, or says Lely.

With the A5, cow comfort has apparently been further improved with a new hybrid arm – it is reportedly silent, faster, more energy-efficient and more accurate.

Instantly following the cow’s every movement during milking, and remaining close to the udder, it quickly corrects itself in the case of any unexpected movement. This ensures a fast and thorough milking process – even with heifers – the company claims.

With the new Teat Detection System (TDS), post-milking teat spraying has been improved by pre-scanning the udder before spraying – limiting the risk of contamination and upping the game for udder hygiene.

The redesigned user interface makes automatic milking “easy to understand for everybody”. From a cow’s first milking to everyday maintenance, all relevant information is available on one ‘page’.

Actions such as feed allocation, cow-specific routing and daily maintenance tasks are also said to be “very accessible”.

To achieve a significantly lower total cost per kg of milk produced, Lely says it has redesigned the complete system.

A worldwide test program, with over 30 customers and more than two million milkings – across a wide temperature range – was set up. Lely boldly claims that this will “ensure flawless operation under any circumstances”.

In all tests, says the company, detergent and water consumption were lowered and energy use was reduced by up to 20%.

‘Making life easier’

Commenting on the A5, Lely CEO Alexander van der Lely extolled the virtues of the new machine, noting: “The Astronaut A5 contributes to our aim of making the lives of farmers easier, their business more successful, and opening up a bright future for them and their families.

“That is why we listened to farmers throughout product development, and thoroughly tested Lely’s Astronaut A5 with farmers all over the world. As with all our products, it is they who ultimately determine how successful this new Astronaut will be.”

According to Lely, the Astronaut A5 will be available in June 2018.