Department of Animal Science


Date of this Version



Vol. 38(6): 853-863.


Open access.


Manual collection of broiler mortality is time-consuming, unpleasant, and laborious. The objectives of this research were: (1) to design and fabricate a broiler mortality removal robot from commercially available components to automatically collect dead birds; (2) to compare and evaluate deep learning models and image processing algorithms for detecting and locating dead birds; and (3) to examine detection and mortality pickup performance of the robot under different light intensities. The robot consisted of a two-finger gripper, a robot arm, a camera mounted on the robot’s arm, and a computer controller. The robot arm was mounted on a table, and 64 Ross 708 broilers between 7 and 14 days of age were used for the robot development and evaluation. The broiler shank was the target anatomical part for detection and mortality pickup. Deep learning models and image processing algorithms were embedded into the vision system and provided location and orientation of the shank of interest, so that the gripper could approach and position itself for precise pickup. Light intensities of 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, and 1000 lux were evaluated. Results indicated that the deep learning model “You Only Look Once (YOLO)” V4 was able to detect and locate shanks more accurately and efficiently than YOLO V3. Higher light intensities improved the performance of the deep learning model detection, image processing orientation identification, and final pickup performance. The final success rate for picking up dead birds was 90.0% at the 1000-lux light intensity. In conclusion, the developed system is a helpful tool towards automating broiler mortality removal from commercial housing, and contributes to further development of an integrated autonomous set of solutions to improve production and resource use efficiency in commercial broiler production, as well as to improve well-being of workers.