Red meat R&D: Could a futuristic exo-skeleton create new opportunity in the meat sector?

Beef Central, 11/03/2021

WELCOME to a new fortnightly series of articles focussing on red meat R&D, presented by Beef Central and the Australian Meat Processor Corporation. This ongoing series will highlight a range of R&D projects designed to enhance the efficiency, productivity, product quality and safety of Australian red meat sold into the domestic market and around the world.

Just some of the topics in coming months will cover Robotics and automation, Food safety, Consumer trends and education, Energy efficiency and the environment, Labour efficiency, Market access and Animal welfare.

All have the ability to help underpin Australia’s unrivalled reputation as the world’s premier export of quality beef, lamb and offal. As this collection of red meat R&D articles builds over time, a handy search tool will be added to allow readers to sort articles by relevant topic.



IT sounds like something from a movie: a carefully-engineered exo-skeleton that can turn a regular human being into a powerhouse of strength and dramatically reduce their fatigue as they push through rigorous tasks.

And indeed, the idea did first appear on the big screen, before it was picked up by the US Marines. Now, it looks set to change the way workers at meat processing plants do their jobs.

The possibility of using exo-skeletons in meat processing is being tested as part of an Australian Meat Processor Corporation Innovation Challenge, with developers being called-on to demonstrate their exo-skeleton technology in a real processing environment.

Why exo-skeletons?

Providing plant operational staff with devices that either increase their strength or reduce the effort required has lots of upside for processors, from minimising WHS incidents to extending the working life of staff and even making highly physically demanding roles available to a wider range of candidates – especially significant in an environment where skills shortages persist.

The introduction of exo-skeleton technology seems a logical next step from solutions like the beef boning unit developed by Scott Technology and supported by AMPC, MLA, and Australian processors. The success of this device provides good evidence of the value these innovations can deliver.

A report on the benefits of the Scott Technology solution shows that it can have a real impact on the business bottom line.  It is anticipated that exo-skeletons will provide a similar benefit.

Right now, a number of companies are working on ideas for the meat processing sector, including  Esko Bionics,  one of the first providers to take AMPC up on this innovation challenge.  Esko Bionics has evaluated system at the Ford Motor Company and more recently has been co-developing enhancements with Cloverdale Foods Company, which AMPC hopes to leverage for Australian processing needs.

About AMPC Innovation Challenges

This exciting research is just the first of many Innovation Challenges to come from AMPC, which has committed to working more closely than ever with industry to conduct research that will drive the sector forward.

Mid-last year AMPC released is 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, a clear and grounded guide that was developed with input from Australian processing companies representing more than 80% of Australia’s industry throughput.

In November, AMPC started a program of engagement with processing members, local and global solution providers and more than 30 universities and research groups to help decide which innovation initiatives to invest in.

With a newly elected board ready to shift strongly out of the planning phase and into execution, AMPC will now start rolling out challenges that have the direct endorsement of industry.

Want to get involved in the Exo-skeleton challenge?

If you are a meat processor who would like to evaluate the technology, get in touch with Stuart Shaw at AMPC. If you are a provider and would like to know more about AMPC funding, talk to Sean Starling.

So what could possibly follow up a program as exciting as exoskeletons? The next challenge is around Gamification.

Look out for an update on this in our next column on Beef Central.













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