Bring on the robots

The vision for the second major project is for Riverland Wine to work with the University of Adelaide to deliver a vineyard guidance system to support competitive and responsive business operations.

Readers may recall a recent June newsletter that reported a meeting between 10 of the region’s thinking growers and nine senior academics from the University’s Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences.  The outcome of that meeting is a proposal for such a vineyard guidance system to be developed.  The long-term ambition of the project is to collaborate closely with growers to develop open-access digital systems.  These will help growers optimise production processes, manage risks and drive continual improvements in vineyard profitability and sustainability.  The guidance system represents a technology ‘platform’ that will provide real time information on current and projected future status across a vineyard and will support the Optimisation Project.  Ultimately, the wider vision is for a precision vineyard control system, whereby all areas of vineyards can be managed to precise performance specifications reflecting market signals and achieving fit for purpose grapes and wine.

It will be necessary to build a system that integrates a number of key components:

  • Sensing and Retrieval – incorporating multiple sensing and data streams at the soil (e.g. moisture, salinity, temperature), plant (eg microclimate, plant water status, bud count, sugar content) and farm level (consumption of water, energy, fertiliser and pesticide rates);
  • Information and Analytics – in the form of a dashboard platform for collating, visualising, and analysing data;
  • Prediction and Intervention – in the form of targeted crop intervention strategies (eg canopy management, sprays, fertiliser) which the grower can implement at fine resolutions in space and time (eg variable rate application), and predictions to enable ‘what-if’ scenarios to explore different intervention options.

These technologies are all about us.  This project between Riverland growers and University of Adelaide scientists will adapt these technologies to this region’s vineyards.  In many ways both these projects will serve as pilots for other regions around the country and beyond.

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