From weeding and de-suckling to spraying and harvesting, grape producers often require a lot of hands-on help. Human laborers, however, aren’t always willing to do the dirty work. Autonomous machines are often better positioned to perform certain difficult tasks. Combined with new environmental regulations that require farmers to reduce chemical inputs, many growers are looking to robots to lend a helping hand. Technology companies have been quick to respond to their needs.
Learn more about four vineyard robots designed to help make growing grapes easier than ever before.
Multitask with Bakus:
Vitibot’s Bakus tackles a wide variety of viticulture tasks. Cédric Bache was inspired to create the autonomous machine after watching his father work in the family vineyard. But replicating the work of skilled laborer was a job onto itself.
Because vine stocks are often spaced six to eight feet apart, robots need to be able to work in close quarters. Bakus’ compact size, precise steering system and low weight help it to navigate difficult terrain and vineyard conditions with ease. It also enables the robot to get as close to the vines as possible. This is where Bakus does its best work.
“Bakus has the particularity of being able to integrate many tools,” says Michael, Fontanin, Director of Marketing and Communication. “In addition to the electrical intervine designed and produced by VitiBot, you can combine a wide range of passive tools such as, ploughs, simple sprayers, lump discs, kress fingers, agromy packs from Boisselet, and many others.”
Reduce Herbicides with Ted:
Designed by Naïo Technologies, Ted is the first mechanical weeding robot to provide winegrowers with an alternative to the use of a traditional straddling machine. Thanks to Ted, winegrowers can save time to take care of other tasks essential to their activities. The robot is equipped with a central platform that spans the vine rows with modular arches allowing it to adapt to all types of vines (narrow, high, etc.). The mechanical weeding tools that are easily attached to the robot enable to operate with precision at the foot of the vines, while limiting soil compaction thanks to the light weight of the robot. With better weeding capacities that are less restrictive and more adaptable to climatic windows, winegrowers can now stop using chemical weed killers.
“Ted is an autonomous 100% electric straddling robot for mechanical weeding. The carrier is guided via the RTK GPS technology on the plots that have been previously mapped either manually, or during planting, or by drone”, explains Thibaut Delcroix, product manager for Ted. “Ted can be hitched to a set of traditional tools, blades, disks, ploughs, which we can find at various suppliers of wine equipment. " Naïo announced this week the launch of the new version of Ted. Ted is now equipped with a central toolholder with a parallelogram lift. The increase in engine power as well as its speed that can reach up to 5km/h allow it to enhance its traction capacity in sloping vineyards, while maintaining a very light weight compared to conventional tractors and straddling machines. Finally, Ted's new modular arches make it possible for the robot to adapt to different types of vineyard (narrow vines, tall vines, etc.).
Clip and Prune with Wall-Ye V.I.N.:
Inventor Christophe Millot’s Wall-Ye V.I.N. manages one of the vineyard’s trickiest challenges: vine maintenance. While pruning, de-suckering and clipping fruitless shoots may not seem difficult, vineyard pruners undergo approximately three years of training.
In a time when skilled workers can be hard to come by, Wall-Ye uses six cameras, four wheels and two arms to prune 600 vines per day. The robot comes fully equipped, too. Wall-Ye integrates GPS, mapping and tracking technologies, and artificial intelligence to navigate the vineyard, capture and record data and move its tool-wielding arms to precisely perform each task.
Farmers who invest in Wall-Ye won’t have to worry about losing this valuable employee to theft. The machine has a built-in security mechanism that prevents it from starting, triggers the hard drive to self-destruct and messages the grower whenever it finds itself in uncharted vineyard territory.
Dive into Big Data with VineScout:
VineScout, the result of a three-year European project that ends in November 2020, gives grape producers a leg up on the numbers game. The data-focused robot measures key ambient and vineyard parameters, including temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, plant vigor based on the normalized difference vegetation index, water stress and canopy temperature.
VineScout uses many tools to gather this information: spectral reflectance sensors, multispectral cameras, infrared radiometer sensors. After collecting and analyzing the data, VineScout’s final objective is to give irrigation scheduling and differential harvesting recommendations.
“The VineScout robot is the result of seven years of work in close contact with end-users, and therefore it comprises many features demanded by them,” says Verónica Saiz Rubio, an agricultural robotics researcher. “A significant difference from other scouting robots is the capacity to sense the plant environment and canopy properties in high proximity, gathering massive data of variables giving water status and plant vigor. It is a machine for the vineyard conceived from the vineyard.”