Vineyard Harnesses IoT for Digital Mapping, Monitoring
The U.K.’s vineyard producers are seeing an uptick in new data and robotics projects, in a bid to enable time, cost and labor savings.
One such project comes from precision agriculture specialists Agri-EPI Centre, AI-driven autonomous robotics company Antobot and vineyard owner Ian Beecher-Jones. The collaborators, working at JoJo’s vineyard near Henley-on-Thames, are working to develop a digital twin of the vineyard, as well as roll out both terrestrial and aerial monitoring technologies.
The project comes as part of Innovate UK and Defra’s Farm Innovation Programme – established to accelerate innovative solutions to meet environmental and operational challenges in the agricultural industry.
Using real-time kinetic sensor technologies, the team is creating a digital rendering of the vineyard up to an accuracy of three-quarters of an inch. The virtual model will enable producers to identify issues and implement improvements, and is designed to be shareable allowing managers to outsource potential developments and enable collaboration among different industry players.
Agri-EPI Center will provide drones to the project, while Antobot offers its roaming agriculture robots. Combined, these devices can collect data on the layout and health of the vineyard, adding an extra level of depth to the virtual map.
“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,” said Duncan Ross, Agri-EPI Center’s business development manager of crops. “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.”
“This project is a vital step in the adoption and acceleration of sustainable robotics in viticulture,” said Marc Jones, Antobot business director. “The grower-owned digital infrastructure will significantly reduce the time required for ag-tech providers to begin operations at the vineyard resulting in lower costs for the customer and faster development and deployment of robotic applications.”
With labor shortages seen across the agricultural industry, introducing digital tools to ease some of the pressure is seen as increasingly necessary by stakeholders and operators alike. Beecher-Jones, owner of JoJo’s Vineyard, stressed that these tools should act as an assistant rather than a replacement for human laborers.
“We need technology to find a way to replace the labor shortages the industry is facing by allowing a more accessible way for vineyards to embrace robotics and AI technology,” he said. “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.”
The team hopes the project, if successful, could be rolled out across different agricultural crop sites.