No, it’s not Christmas yet but it is time to celebrate.

Last week, a dozen senior academics from the University of Adelaide travelled to the Riverland for a re-union with 10 Riverland winegrowers. The purpose of the visit was to celebrate and report the outcomes from the original ‘Hack-Fest’ initiated two years ago by Riverland Wine members.

Since the original meeting, in June 2018, a pilot project to reduce the cost of running vineyards, has been conducted at a local trial site. Subsequently, Wine Australia agreed to co-fund a 3-year research project to create ‘VitiVisor’. Progress reports have been previously published in Riverland Wine’s column and newsletter as well as other national wine media.

The re-union workshop demonstrated that the ‘foundations’ of the project have been laid down. Designing and building rock solid foundations are essential for any project if it’s to stand the test of time. That done, the project developments will now be more evident. Many of the remote vineyard data sensors were demonstrated last week together with the LoRaWAN communications features. The very first robotic device, ‘The Rover’ also had a run.

‘VitiVisor’ will be a revolutionary tool for wine grape growers in the Riverland and beyond. In addition to increasing the efficiency and economic performance of the regions’ vineyards, the significant stress of making expensive decisions based on ‘gut feelings’ will be reduced. ‘VitiVisor’ will process vast amounts of easily collected data, relevant to each individual vineyard and develop predictions and ‘advice’. The ‘cost of doing business’ will be more easily managed.

Riverland wine grapegrower representatives have insisted that every grower in the Riverland must be able to benefit from the use of ‘VitiVisor’. The cost of the technology required must make economic sense. The technology must be robust and simple to use. Like driving a new car, users must be able to just hop in, put on a seat belt and drive away without understanding the new technologies involved.

The goal of ‘VitiVisor’ is to increase the value of every Riverland vineyard. Unless every grower can reduce their production costs while producing the required quality of wine grapes, they will continue to be uncompetitive in the market for increasingly expensive water. If wine grape growers cannot be competitive with other crops, over time, vineyards will be substituted for nut, citrus, summer fruits and avocado orchards. Farming is a business. Not making a profit is not good business

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