1st August 2011

Major milestone reached as IMEQ project work moves to abattoir

A trailblazing research project to determine the eating quality of meat has reached another significant milestone this month with the installation of a working robot at the meat processing premises involved in the project.

Quality Meat Scotland and the Scottish Government are co–funding the Integrated Measurement of Eating Quality (IMEQ) project, which is being delivered by a consortium of partners, led by SAC. The project is on schedule and making good progress.

This innovative project, now in its second year, is using automated cutting edge technology to determine carcass pH, temperature and surface-based ultrasound probes at certain positions on the carcass.

A robotic manipulator, with novel camera technology and special end-of-arm tools, is being used. The camera scans the carcass and generates an automatic 3-dimensional contour map which allows the robot to guide the pH/temperature probe to the target muscle in the half-carcass on-line.

The robot has just completed several months of extensive testing by SAC, which is working with a consortium of commercial companies and scientists involved in the ground-breaking project.

Having successfully completed this rigorous process - a scientific version of a “boot camp” period of testing by SAC - the equipment is now installed at Scotbeef in Bridge of Allan where it will undergo further testing and development work.

Charlotte Maltin, Science and Innovation Manager with Quality Meat Scotland, said: "This is an exciting milestone in what is a ground-breaking project which could have benefits through the whole red meat chain.

“The red meat industry could benefit by up to £5 million a year, based on current prices and throughput levels, as a result of added revenue and efficiency gains generated by the future commercialisation of this type of automated approach.”

Professor Maltin added: “As well as improving efficiency in the processing sector, the research could provide a wealth of important information to producers.


“Farmers should be able to harness this information to improve their business efficiency and adopt the best management systems to produce beef of a consistently high eating quality.”

The initial focus of the project will be on beef, with the aim to extend the technology to lamb and pork at a later date.

Dave Ross, Research Engineer, Sustainable Livestock Systems Group, SAC said: “Following the off-line trials the robot is now being transferred to the meat processing plant where we will test how it can be developed for integration in the processing line environment.

"Initial studies on the abattoir carcass line are already underway and the next step forward is to look at the technical robustness and intelligent autonomy of the system.

"During the course of this summer and autumn, the automation system and sensors will be used in real-time research to assess the overall performance of the system in measuring meat and carcass quality related parameters.”

In the current abattoir studies, the automation is focusing on pH and temperature measurements and the development of the ultrasound probe but work on semi-automatic and automatic means of measuring pH, temperature, meat colour, carcase fat, eating and nutritional qualities is also underway.

IMEQ examines integrating these measures with video image analysis (VIA) technologies into a new process for use on the line in abattoirs leading to a system which is faster, less labour-intensive and less expensive.

Caption: Andy McGowan, Head of Industry Development, Quality Meat Scotland pictured with the IMEQ robot during the “boot camp” testing phase before moving to the processor site where it is now being tested on real carcases.

For further press information please contact Carol McLaren, Head of Communications, QMS on 0131 4724112 or mobile: 07739 900653 email: cmclaren@qmscotland.co.uk www.qmscotland.co.uk




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