Robots in the vineyard
What’s your idea of the vineyard of the future? As we discussed in a previous entry, vineyard owners are increasingly opting for mechanized solutions to harvesting, irrigation and other farming tasks. With latest available technologies, vineyard owners enjoy better farm productivity, improved product quality and consistency and higher sales and profits as a result.
What about a future where robots could fully or at least partially take over labor-intensive farming tasks?
Naio Technologies, a company based in Ramonville-Saint-Agne, France, has developed a weeding robot prototype called Ted for vineyards in the Southwest of France. The prototype can cover up to 5 hectares per day and reach a speed of up to 4 km/h. This means 30 to 40 hectares over the course of 7 to 10 days. The robot utilizes a complex computer vision system as well as 3D cameras to guide its operations, and will eventually be able to take data from a variety of sensors.
Figure: Robot Ted by Naio Technologies (Source: Reussir Vigne)
Wall Ye, another robot developed by French engineers, tackles the problem of precise pruning and grape picking. Armed with advanced computer vision and machine learning, Wall Ye interprets images taken by its cameras to navigate and identify vine shoots to prune. The robot costs approximately $32,000 and carries the promise of easing labor shortage worries. Sounds like science fiction? Some vineyards in France have already signed up to test Wall Ye in action.
Furthermore, the new wave of vineyard robots is not limited to France. A new robot under development by the University of Canterbury is expected to save the New Zealand wine industry $23 million per year in increased productivity and lower yield loss.
With looming challenges in the labor market, the use of robotics and advanced analytics will likely spread beyond the small community of adventurous winemakers. We wrote previously about how our customers have benefited from intelligence delivered by our signature products such as Sap Flow. At one point, the question of whether to adopt latest vineyard technologies on your property will be more than a productivity and cost question. It’s to understand every critical signal of your vines and ensure your business stays competitive on the marketplace with the highest quality fruit and wine.
Fruition Sciences offers a full suite of products addressing a variety of vineyard needs to enhance your decision and use your workforce wisely. Our foliar nitrogen mapping product provides detailed maps of nitrogen needs so that vineyards can apply fertilizer where it’s needed. Physiocap provides incremental value to automatic hedgers by identifying where dry biomass accumulates in your vineyards. Our color mapping product helps vineyards optimize harvesting decisions based on fruit color areas.
Cat graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a focus on sustainable agriculture and a minor in Latin American development. Through her work on organic farms abroad and her job in sales for an organic clothing company in Santa Cruz, Cat strengthened her passion for adventure, personal connection and fostering sustainable action. Joining the Fruition team as a Field Technician for the 2016 season, she now assists in all aspects of field operations as Head Technician.
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