On Friday, June 22 week a team of nine high achieving graduate engineers across of range of disciplines from the University of Adelaide’s highly acclaimed School of Artificial Intelligence – met with 10 ‘adventurous’ Riverland winegrowers in a workshop. Nerds were clad in orange T-shirts, Growers in blue and a small team of Observers in white. The purpose of this unusual ‘meeting of minds’ was to begin the process of discovery; how Riverland growers and vineyards might transition towards precision viticulture as the best way to reduce unnecessary inputs, produce more ‘fit for purpose’ wine and push the region to the brink of competitiveness in global wine markets.
The cluster of growers and academics quickly agreed to focus on how the Nerds might address one of the growers’ priority tasks – the management of their vineyards through data collection with the assistance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotic devices for vineyards. Growers explained that the collection of data – sugar levels, colour, disease levels, canopy density, weed management, yield, and water and nutrient status etc – were time consuming and therefore costly. At various stages during a growing season growers are sometimes obliged to collect sample and data on multiple occasions across numerous vineyards and vast areas. Automation of these processes will save time, diesel and likely tonnes of unnecessary chemicals.
By mid-afternoon the groups had examined vineyards, machines, irrigation infrastructure and a range of contemporary technologies considered necessary to be ‘best practice’ producers in 2018. They had also shared ‘possibilities’ for advancement to the next level. They adopted a mind-set of ‘no barriers’ to encourage the most imaginative, futuristic thinking. The Nerds were excited. They boarded the bus babbling with enthusiasm for the experience of meeting these growers and entering the world of Australian vineyards and winegrowing opportunities. They return at the end of the month to present initial responses. Stay tuned.