Amid pandemic, orders soar for Brazil robot that feeds pigs playing classical music

By Reuters
Roboagro robot feeds pigs while playing classical music on a farm in Brazil

By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Orders for a Brazilian pig-feeding robot, which plays classical music while dispensing meals, soared this year as farmers strove to cut costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roboagro, the privately-owned company that sells the robot, said in a statement sent to Reuters on Thursday that orders rose by an average of 400% to 60 units per month.

The machine uses linear feeders allowing the animals, which are divided in pens, to receive the exact amount of feed needed for each meal. As it works, it plays classical music, which the company claims mitigates animal stress.

Roboagro Director Giovani Molin said in the statement the robot reduces the presence of humans on the pig farms, and generates data that helps improve overall herd management.

Feed accounts for up to 75% of pig production costs, and every cent counts amid a steep rise in grain prices due to heated demand.

According to Roboagro, farmers who use the technology can improve the feed conversion ratio of pigs, increasing animal quality. The robot can save an estimated 40,000 reais ($7,792) per year per batch of 1,000 animals, it says, a calculation that does not include labor costs.

Roboagro says its robot is in use in some 500 farms in Brazil, including suppliers to large processors like JBS SA and BRF SA, which grappled with COVID-19 outbreaks at their facilities.

Brazil, a behemoth protein producer, boosted the volume of pork exports by 40% in the first 10 months of the year. That trade generated $1.87 billion in revenue, a nearly 50% rise on strong Chinese demand.

($1 = 5.1332 reais)

(Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Marguerita Choy)