Linux Powers Robotic Dairy System

Cow being milked

DeLaval, a 122 year old dairy equipment company, offers the Voluntary Milking System (VMS), an embedded Linux-controlled, robotic cow-milking system. What sets this system apart is that the process is entirely automated, and the cows themselves decide when they are ready to be milked. The VMS stands to revolutionize dairy farming as it is able to milk a herd of 60 cows three times a day with little to no human intervention, freeing the farmers to focus on other tasks.

When a cow decides that it is time to be milked it enters a stall where the system identifies it and looks to see when it had been last milked. If enough time has elapsed since the previous milking it proceeds to the milking station where a robotic arm cleans and dries her udder before attaching the vacuum cups for extracting the milk. The sophisticated array of sensors are able to monitor every aspect of the milking which gives the farmers additional insight into the health of his cows. Changes in milk flow, for example, can be an early sign of a health problem with the cow. After milking, the vacuum cups are removed and the robotic arm disinfects the cow and itself before sending Bessie on her way.

The VMS runs a 2.4.18 kernel on an Advantech PCM-5820 SBC that has a 200 MHz AMD Geode GX1. The system uses 64 MB RAM, and although it has a 40 GB drive, it uses only a small fraction of that.

The VMS has been in production since the fall of 2004 and is now in use in over 1000 farms worldwide.


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