Larry Lukis was tired of pesky Canada geese on the lawn of his $5 million Wayzata Bay home, so he hired Jack Kilian, an electrical engineering grad student, who used Lukis’ funding to buy robot hardware and programmed it to create The Wild Goose Chaser—a robot that, as its name implies, keeps spaces geese-free.
The Wild Goose Chaser uses a number of sensors and cameras to watch for, recognize, and run off geese during the day, before docking at its charging station at night. Lukis’ yard is one of two test sites for the robots.
Kilian, a University of Minnesota graduate student, sees value for the technology that extends far beyond the shores of Lake Minnetonka. “We were always kind of brainstorming other applications for that robot,” he says.
So he came up with the idea for Poultry Patrol—a similar robot used in turkey and other poultry houses to perform tasks like detecting mortalities, collecting eggs, checking equipment, disinfecting excrement, and turning soil—all tedious jobs that farmers usually perform because they are too costly to hire someone else to do.
“If we put a robot in there to do the scouring for them, the robot is cheap enough that you could buy one per poultry house,” Kilian says of the approximately $10,000 ’bot. That’s much cheaper than paying an employee, he says. Plus, the robots would improve biosecurity by reducing contact between birds and the outside world.
Kilian pitched the idea as part of Red Wing Ignite’s Ignite Minnesota Ag Tech Challenge in January, and received $12,500 for the project, which he’s using to build and test the first Poultry Patrol machine.
Kilian is also working with researchers at Georgia Tech as well as representatives from Jennie-O Foods and the Minnesota Turkey Association to advance the project and put Poultry Patrol into its first turkey house. And, with Minnesota claiming the title of “national turkey capital,” producing about 44 million of the birds a year, Poultry Patrol isn’t likely to be stopped cold turkey any time soon.