While owning a vineyard in southern France does seem like a dream job to most people, actually doing so isn’t all fun and games. To ensure the quality of the wine produced, one needs to conduct regular and thorough examination of each and every plant in the vineyard. Fortunately, though, a group of companies and universities, based in Spain, Italy, France and Germany, is currently developing an agricultural robot, called VineRobot, that can make the management of vineyards a far easier task.
Led by Spain’s University of La Rioja, the VineRobot project includes eight partner organizations from different countries in the European Union. The solar-powered automaton uses its four wheels, along with highly-specialized GPS tracking and RGB stereoscopic machine vision, to move up and down the rows of the vineyard. Additionally, it comes equipped with a whole range of advanced sensing technologies that provide important information regarding the plants’ health. Speaking about the project, Javier Tardáguila, a scientist on the team, said:
Robotics and precision agriculture producer provide powerful tools for improving the competitiveness of their farms. Robots like the one developed in this project will not replace the grower, but what they will do is make your job easier, avoiding the hardest part in the field. Among its many advantages, it will predict the production of grapes, or degree of maturity to estimate the quality without touching it.
Furthermore, the robot is programmed to monitor the various aspects related to the vines’ growth. It uses non-invasive sensors, like infrared thermography and chlorophyll-based fluorescence sensing, to collect accurate information regarding soil moisture, grape yield, vegetative growth, grape composition and so on. The acquired data will then be transmitted wirelessly to a satellite, following which the vintner himself will be notified via a specially-designed smartphone app.
According to the team, the unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) is a cheaper and more flexible alternative to the commonly-available aerial drones and other manned robots. The VineRobot project, which will likely be completed by the end of next year, has so far received funding worth over two-million Euros.