The Astronaut 4 is one of a range of robotic farming systems made by agricultural firm Lely, which says the machine is modular and can be configured to local farm needs.
It works on the principle that instead of the farmer or the robot controlling the milking, the cow does. The Astronaut 4 system is designed to be as easy as possible for the cow to use. One innovation is the "I-flow concept," where the cow can walk straight in and out without having to turn or back up two things that cows hate to do.
The I-flow allows the cow to learn how to use the machine faster, reduces stress, and makes the milking station less of a bottleneck, 'Gizmag' reported. With such a machine design, the cow soon learns to go into the robotic milking station to be milked and get a bit of food when it feels like it.
Levy even claims that the cows learn how to use the system faster than the farmers do. The machine has a automatic feeding trough to keep the cow occupied. Depending on the configuration, the trough can automatically dispense food, minerals, supplements, and liquids to suit each cow.
As the trough swings clear at the end of milking, this encourages the cow to walk forward and leave. This simple action is enough to increase the capacity of the robot by an extra cow each day, according to Lely. The Lely version of the robotic milking arm was introduced in 1992 and the Astronaut 4 version is a more developed model.
It uses a "bottom up" approach that raises the teat cups on the milker in such a way that they can't drop off from the udder and has adjustable settings to fit each individual cow's needs, the report said. The arm is also designed to be gentle and the mechanics are relatively simple and operates with a minimum of movements to avoid alarming the cow as it locates and docks with the teats using a 3D camera and lasers. The milk is moved from the arm through the rest of the system by means of compressed air impeller pumps.