Precision agriculture specialists, Agri-EPI Centre, autonomous robotics company Antobot and vineyard owner, Ian Beecher-Jones, have embarked on two projects to create a vineyard digital map, and on-the-ground and aerial monitoring.
The shareable digital infrastructure project – funded by Innovate UK and Defra as part of their Farm Innovation Programme Research Starter Round 2- will create the digital infrastructure of the vineyard, including rows, posts and vines to an accuracy of two centimetres using real time kinetic (RTK) surveying tools. The shareable infrastructure model, based on the Australian Collabriculture project, could save producers many hours of work and cost in setting their vineyards up ready to embrace viticultural technology.
On-the-ground and aerial monitoring will be gathered by robots and drones to add a layer of data to the digital map. The robots are being developed by agriculture robot technologists, Antobot, and drones are supplied by Agri-EPI Centre. This second strand is funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). According to Agri-EPI Centre, the resulting technology will be highly transferable to other row crop sectors, such as orchards and soft fruit.
Duncan Ross, business development manager crops, Agri-EPI Centre commented, “When wine growers want to survey a vineyard with a robot or drone, they have to do a survey and plan beforehand, which can be highly time-consuming if they have to do it for each technology they want to use. Creating a shareable digital twin of the vineyard should cut down the amount of time that contractors spend out in the field, saving producers and technology companies time and money.”
Ian Beecher-Jones of JoJo’s Vineyard added, “We need technology to find a way to replace the labour shortages the industry is facing by allowing a more accessible way for vineyards to embrace robotics and AI technology. It will hopefully allow us to find a new way of marketing vineyards to our customers through a potentially new revenue stream with consumer facing technological products and innovations. We cannot lose traditional wine-making skills, but any vineyard that can blend traditional with modern ways of production will be at the forefront of the industry.”