Le 26/03/2024

Robots are Ready for the Vineyards

Joseph Malfait of Moët Hennessy discusses how the latest autonomous technologies have the potential to positively impact vineyards around the world. Plus, a closer look at nine robots from the World FIRA 2024 event.

A long-time shift has taken hold in the agricultural robotics market, and industry experts everywhere are starting to notice. The changes began with the equipment itself. While the autonomous technologies of yesterday often focused on improving the standard industry equipment like tractors and sprayers with sensors and global positioning systems, today’s generation of smart equipment is often developed from the ground up.

The players have changed, too. Once the game of scrappy startups, now even the biggest manufacturers are getting in on the action. One person whose witnessed this transition from both the agronomic and technological sides is Joseph Malfait. As the Senior Wine Buyer, Material & Innovation CPL for Moët Hennessy, Malfait has first-hand knowledge of how the latest ag robotics are transforming the viticulture sector.

“The current technologies have been successful in navigating crazy conditions, such as wet and very humid weather or hilly slopes that would be dangerous for a driver,” he says. “The robots can handle these conditions very well. They can also help the operator to be very accurate when driving through vineyards, especially those with one- or two-year-old vines, where the plants are still very fragile.”

While a lot of these autonomous technologies have improved safety for workers and allowed vineyards to accomplish more with the workforce they have, there are also improvements Malfait expects to see in the coming years.

For one, he anticipates that future robots will be able to set themselves based on the environmental conditions, instead of requiring the farmer to tinker with the settings. This means the robot must be capable of accurately collecting data from its sensors and other monitoring systems. From there, the machine will also need to analyze the data and complete its tasks based on these findings.

Malfait uses the example of soil to illustrate this point. In areas with harder, more compacted soil, the robot will respond differently than it would under softer conditions. Instead of reporting this information to the operators, who might need to interpret this information and come back to the robot to adjust the settings, the machine will automatically adjust the settings and act accordingly. It will do this instantly, allowing the farmer to become more effective at responding to ever-changing circumstances.

Even as autonomous technologies continue to advance and improve, vineyards around the world are already being positively impacted by what’s available today. Each region of wine-grapes growers encounters different challenges. The solutions coming to market seek to help farmers rise to meet them.

“Across the world, we all have the same goal to produce the best grapes and make the best wine,” Malfait says. “But the difficulties we face are different in each area. For some, there is a lack of employees that robots can help solve. For others, there are employees available but they aren’t trained. Robots that operate autonomously can help them.”

“In Brazil, where they experience 2,500 mm of rainfall per year, the robots can run without a driver and will be very light to avoid harming the soil,” Malfait continues. “Robots can also handle the steep conditions in Switzerland and help keep employees safe on the dangerous inclines. In areas where we need to decrease the amount of chemicals used, robots will help apply the biocontrols, which need to be sprayed more often. Ultimately, the question becomes, ‘what is the issue in your country or your backyard?’ Robots can be developed to solve whatever it is.”

In the meantime, Malfait would like to see farms be more proactive in preparing for a future that includes autonomous technologies working alongside human employees. He often sees a couple different reactions to this scenario.

The small growers tend to try to compare the current equipment to the robotic solutions in terms of price or productivity—a comparison that cannot be made in an easy or satisfying way—and become disillusioned when the math doesn’t quite work.

Alternatively, the bigger growers want to try to replace their traditional equipment with robotic solutions, but they find that these autonomous machines that are not designed to do everything a standard tractor might accomplish. Instead, it would be ideal to have a mix of equipment that can make the overall job of producing grapes much more efficient. Then there are the growers that are worried about losing their jobs to technology when the reality is that employment will change rather than disappear entirely.

Malfait believes there is a middle ground for each scenario. When robots are mindfully integrated into an operation’s workflow, many of these worries dissipate.

“There’s a proper way to introduce technology into your organization,” Malfait says. “When you start to bring robots onto your vineyard, you have to really rethink how things work in the field, who will be controlling what and the goals you want the technology to help you accomplish. You may have to reorganize the work to avoid the risk of robots will interfere with people. I encourage everyone to think deeper about these things before they start to introduce new innovations onto the farm.”

The latest World FIRA event showcased a wide range of robots and autonomous solutions specifically for vineyards. Let's have a closer look...

Credits @SPKTR

Jo by Naïo Technologies

Jo is able to tackle weeds on the row and between rows with a single pass, Jo can also set furrows with RTK GPS positioning. Narrow vines are not the only crop where this electric crawler can achieve big things. Its low compaction design will help caring about the soil in plots of fir trees, fruit trees, tree nurseries and more. Jo comes with a 5-year warranty.

For more information, visit www.naio-technologies.com

Credits @SPKTR

Ted by Naïo Technologies

Its universal mounting frame offers the possibility to adapt various tools. The robot offers effective and precise mechanical weeding, without herbicides, which respects your soil and crops. Ted can work up 6 hours on a charge. Ted comes with a 5-year warranty.

For more information, visit www.naio-technologies.com

Credits @SPKTR

Trektor by SITIA

TREKTOR is an autonomous agricultural machine. What sets TREKTOR apart is its hybrid nature. TREKTOR runs on electric power, but has an on-board diesel generator that enables it to recharge its batteries in the field while continuing to work. Its hybrid function reduces diesel consumption by up to 60% compared with a conventional tractor performing the same tasks. Designed for viticulture (straddle and inter-row) and horticulture (open fields or under chapels), TREKTOR adapts to existing hydraulic, mechanical or electric implements. It features a Cat. II rear 3-point hitch and an inter-wheel hitch.

For more information, visit www.trektor.fr

Credits @SPKTR

Aigro Up by Aigro BV

The AIGRO UP is an autonomous tool carrier that performs tasks such as weeding, mowing and scouting. The AIGRO UP reduces the use of chemicals, labour and energy: improving yield and profitability.

For more information, visit www.aigro.nl

Credits @SPKTR

Agilehelper by Pek Automotive

The Agilehelper system is a 3-in-1 tool designed for smaller vineyards and dedicated to soil preparation. Its main functionality includes mulching branches in the passage and in the root area, cutting tree branches (horizontal and vertical cuts), and soil cultivation in the passage and root area. It features a full autonomy (no GNSS or internet required), and it is fully electric and low voltage.

For more information, visit www.pekauto.com

Credits @SPKTR

TRAXX by EXXACT Robotics

Traxx, the autonomous straddle tractor for narrow vineyards. The single-row self-propelled straddle tractor combines safety and reliability for both tillage and spraying. It features an ergonomic remote control for simple, instinctive management. A smartphone interface is also available, so you can keep track of the job in hand and check the progress of the work in hand.

The compact configuration of the high-clearance straddle enables it to be adapted to a wide range of vineyards, while limiting soil compaction. It is fitted with low-pressure tires adapted to different types of soil, for better ground clearance. It’s also fitted with high-sensitivity bumpers and a LIDAR for maximum user safety.

The TRAXX PREMIUM service provides full user support and training to help you make the most of your autonomous straddle tractor.

For more information, visit www.exxact-robotics.com

Credits @SPKTR

YV01 by Yanmar

The YV01 is developed to treat vines and work the soil in full autonomy. It furrows the vineyards thanks to its GPS-RTK system. Equipped with tracks, it minimizes soil compaction. It has a sonar, LIDAR and BUMPER safety system. Programming and manipulation is made easy from a WEB task manager and remote control. Its light weight allows it to be easily transportable.

For more information, visit www.yanmar.com/fr/viticulture

Credits @SPKTR

Modular-E by INESC TEC

Modular-E is an electric and cost-effective modular ground robot developed by INESC TEC. Modular-E has more than four tools that can be attached to the robot for different tasks (e.g. soil monitoring, weed removal/control, spraying and fertilization). The Modular-E was designed to take in consideration the steep slope agriculture requirements. This platform consists of a two-wheel system with differential traction supported by a two-wheel trailer (with or without traction), to ensure the perfect traction on irregular terrains. This robot is equipped with an advanced navigation system, can work with and without GNSS signals and in steep slope terrains.

For more information, visit https://www.inesctec.pt/en/laboratories/tribe-laboratory-of-robotics-and-iot-for-smart-precision-agriculture-and-forestry

Credits @SPKTR

Weta Robot by INESC TEC

This new technology aims to address the question of movement in mountain vineyards, thanks to its ability to perform monitoring, precision spraying, weeding and selective harvesting tasks in the context of permanent and tree crops. As a process automation technology with high precision levels, this solution aims to reduce the use of plant protection products significantly, while increasing the quality of agricultural tasks.

For more information, visit https://www.inesctec.pt/en/laboratories/tribe-laboratory-of-robotics-and-iot-for-smart-precision-agriculture-and-forestry

Credits @SPKTR

SPERO Pruner by Robotic Perception

The Spero pruner is built to prune vines, apples and other fruit trees. It is a robotic arm equipped with an electric pruner and a set of sensors at the tip of the arm, used to identify branches that need to be cut. The operation is managed by a powerful edge device that uses AI to analyze the data, and guide the arm to cut the branches at the right location. A trailer with 3-4 such arms on each side is connected to a tractor PTO to prune orchards and vineyards on the go. Another edge device at the tractor cabin is used to monitor the arms operation, and a GPS device can be used to tag the imagery with global position information and stored for crop management and monitoring purposes.

For more information, visit www.roboticperception.com

Credits @SPKTR


The ICARO X4 robot has been entirely developed by Free Green Nature engineers. ICARO X4 is the world’s first hybrid robot for treating vineyards and orchards with UV-C rays, enabling a significant reduction in the use of chemicals in agriculture.

ICARO X4 is a technological product comprising 16 patents, each with its own specific function. The key element of the robot is its large, foldable UV-C emitting panels, which are emitted and applied to the plant to be treated simply by passing the panel a few centimeters from the leaves. Applying UV-C rays of a specific wavelength to the plant triggers a biological mechanism that stimulates the plant’s immune defenses. The UV-C rays also break down the DNA of pathogens such as powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis, preventing them from developing on the plant.

For more information, visit www.freegreen-nature.it

Categories : #Crops
  • Karli Petrovic
    Essayist at KPwrites.com