Robotic sheepdogs won’t ever replace the real thing, despite the best efforts of scientists says Bay of Plenty farmer and Federated Farmers Meat and Fibre spokesman Rick Powdrell.
He’s commenting on work by seven European academics looking for the algorithms involved in dogs working sheep as a way to come up with new robots to influence movements of "living and artificial agents".
There’s a primordial instinctive connection between dogs and sheep.
“At the risk of being out of step with technology, Federated Farmers is dubious robotic sheepdogs will replace the real thing anytime soon.
“Anyone who works with dogs and sheep knows there’s more to this than an algorithm. For starters, there is a primordial instinctive connection between the two animals. How you simulate that I have no idea.
“Another reason comes down to the sheer agility of working dogs across unforgiving terrain. Then there is the question of endurance.”
After a few biscuits and water dogs are ready to go, but Rick says since his smartphone struggles to get through a full day, the idea of a robotic dog running out of puff in the back blocks doesn’t excite him. “I don’t think I have ever had to reboot one of my dogs either.
“Farmers are increasingly using drones and autonomy may be massive for rural security, but that last element is for the future. Robotic dogs seem a bridge too far but then again, the world’s first synthetic meat patty cost £250,000. If someone wants to I guess they will.
“This research may have more applications off-farm, say, for crowd control,” says Rick.