Augmented reality helps lead quality in Australian meat industry

Brett And Ryan HR

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) have partnered with Design Build and Consulting business, Wiley to explore how technology can bring meat grading into the future utilising Augmented Reality (AR).

The pair collaborated on a research and development project to innovate meat grading using computer vision, with the goal of objective measurement and decision support for grading staff. The innovative technology will help cement Australia as the world’s leading red meat producers, delivering high quality future supplies to domestic and international markets.

The AR platform, named ARGA (Augmented Reality Grading App) facilitates faster, more consistent and more precise meat grading while taking full advantage of the experience and capabilities of the industry’s meat graders. The solution is designed to discern the colour of a meat sample; accurately can determine the area of the latissimus dorsi muscle and introduces handsfree scanning of meat sample tickets. These features have been demonstrated on a Vuzix m300 augmented reality headset as well as on various hand-held devices.

This project consisted of two phases:

  • A research phase reviewing and cataloguing relevant augmented reality projects, case studies and technology
  • A proof of concept phase in which a prototype of an augmented reality application was developed for an AR head mounted display and tasked with reducing the subjectivity in MSA grading in a processing environment.

The subjective collection and assessment of meat grading attribute in the industry have contributed to trust issues between producers and processors. MLA have stated that producers and feedlot operators are concerned about the precision of meat grading in Australia. Meat graders are not to blame. Humans are simply not built to repeatedly make objective judgements day in day out. In an American study of meat grading, it was found that 50% of meat samples were mis-graded in some way.

“We are really excited to be working with the MLA in research and innovation projects that will move the red meat industry forward into the digital era. We congratulate MLA on their foresight to investigate and invest in this technology,” said Wiley’s R&D and Innovation Director, Brett Wiskar.

In 2016, Australia was responsible for the exports of more than a million tonnes of beef exports making this country one of the leading meat producers in the world. Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) is working hard to keep Australia at the forefront of meat production globally with technological initiatives designed to ensure Australia’s future as a global industry leader.

Wiskar explained some of the benefits of the meat grading AR platform. “Decision assistance for meat graders may lead to improved transparency and consistent outcomes for the meat industry. Increased precision has obvious benefits such as accuracy on a carcase by carcase basis and broader labour efficiencies but there are also subtle flow-on positive impacts to the industry and processors.

Decision support is likely to bring about greater speed and decreased training periods for meat graders. In addition, such a solution has the potential to normalize grading performance across shift duration, between graders, between facilities and across processor groups.

Both the augmented reality market and the platform developed through this research show substantial potential. The successful demonstration of a meat grading application in conjunction with the continuing development of augmented reality solutions make it reasonable to expect augmented reality to play a substantial role in the meat industry in years to come. This platform will have much further potential as the technology advances.

MLA and Wiley are now working together to prepare a Rural R&D for profit submission on an augmented and virtual reality program for all of Australian agriculture.