The pioneers, soldier settlers and migrants to the Riverland developed agricultural and horticultural industries, co-operatives, regional communities, and a wonderful lifestyle in the driest State on the driest continent thanks to the mighty Murray and a pronounced hard work ethic. Without the river today’s population would consist of a few hardy grain growers and maybe a few pastoralists. There would be few services and no communities. The hard workers have worked with the river and built a magnificent horticultural industry with winegrowers and winemakers playing a major role. In days gone by those who worked harder and harder revealed glimpses of utter brilliance by developing hundreds, if not thousands of clever gadgets to ease some of the work burden and increase efficiency, profitability and sustainability.
As the wine industry continues to emerge from a decade of the doldrums, that creative brilliance is once again, shining through. Readers will recall the working sessions in June and July where Riverland winegrowers met with a large team of computer science engineers and mathematicians from the University of Adelaide along with Dr Liz Waters, the Head of Research and Development at Wine Australia. The workshops considered how the engineers could work with the growers to develop systems and workflows, accessible to ordinary winegrowers that would enable increased productivity and efficiency across vineyards in Australia’s premier wine growing region. The vision was that this would largely be achieved, using Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Robotic Tools.
The outcome of the workshops was an application to the State Government, prepared by the University and Wine Australia on behalf of Riverland Wine, for a share of the South Australian Wine Industry Development Scheme (SAWIDS) funding program, promoted by PIRSA.
This week we’ve been advised the application has been widely commended and supported. It’s all systems go to begin the project. This new program will complement and integrate with the region’s Optimisation project, currently being considered for funding by the Australian Research Council. Irrespective of that outcome, the return of the gadgets will serve as a rock solid foundation for yet another application to the Federal Government for consideration within the guidelines of the national Rural R&D for Profit program.
It’s not too difficult to envisage that the combination of hard work, inventiveness, community and unity could position this region to become a Centre of Excellence for precision viticulture programs; putting them within the grasp of all Riverland Wine members.