Wetenschap - 26 april 2018

PhD student designs egg robot

Albert Sikkema

PhD candidate Bastiaan Vroegindeweij developed the prototype for an egg collection robot. He received a doctorate for his thesis about it on 10 April. Now he wants to refine the robot through his own company for practical application.

Bastiaan Vroegindeweij (right) and Sam Blaauw testing the egg collection robot. ©LivestockRobotics

Vroegindeweij already had a robot back in December 2015 that could move around a chicken barn and pick up eggs. This was a proof of concept but the robot was far from perfect. Practical tests showed that the machine could correctly pick up nearly 50 percent of the eggs in one go. It did spot another quarter of the eggs but approached them in the wrong way. The
robot failed to see the remaining eggs, or missed them because it was too late lowering the picker. The battery didn’t last long either, the wheel control was not optimal and the robot didn’t realize when it had hit a post or feeding tray. The PhD candidate therefore took two major decisions: he rebuilt the robot from scratch and he started his own company.

Vroegindeweij, whose father has a big poultry farm, knows chicken farmers are interested in his invention. ‘At the moment, farmers have to go through the entire barn picking up eggs themselves; that’s not a fun job.’ He has yet to find investors to help him develop the robot for practical application. ‘Many suppliers in the poultry sector know nothing about robots and find it hard to assess the development risks.’ But Vroegindeweij is carrying on relentlessly with writing business plans and filling in funding applications.

He spent the past two years completing his thesis and at the same time working on the new egg collection robot with researcher Sam Blaauw of the Farm Technology Group and some students. ‘We finished a new prototype last year.’ It has a higher ‘capture rate’, looks for charging stations itself if the battery is nearly empty and realizes when it has hit something. Vroegindeweij reckons that he still needs another two years plus half a million euros to develop an egg collection robot that works well in practice.