There are 23 autonomous robots working the soil and weeding in French vineyards. The first robot designed for vineyards was Vitirover, a small electric mower awarded a special prize at the 2012 Vinitech fair. Since then, we have seen several new vine robots emerge
What’s their main role in the vineyard?
The focus is on addressing specific soil management issues. While many herbicides are destined to disappear, mechanical weeding appears to be the most common alternative for vine growers. The problem is soil tillage techniques that are very expensive and labor intensive comparing to herbicides. Whereas robots will help reducing both the time and arduousness of such tasks.
These are touted as solutions for soil tillage in vegetable gardens or field crops. Soil tillage in viticulture is quite different because it is all about weeding or mowing the space between the vines on the row, without touching or hurting them. The challenge is to be precise and an improvement on mechanical weeding done with a tractor.
TED – Naïo Technologies 🇫🇷
The electric-powered robot has a target price of €175,000 when it’s fully developed in 2023. The new model was fine-tuned during the summer 2020 at vineyards belonging to Cognac producer Hennessy and Bordeaux’s Bernard Magrez.
The robot, originally launched three years ago, is equipped with a central platform that spans the vine rows with modular arches allowing it to adapt to a variety of vines (narrow, high, etc). Weeding tools, blades, disks, and ploughs can be attached to the new central toolholder, which has a parallelogram lift. Two tools can be combined at the same time. The power of the lightweight machine has been increased so it can reach speeds of 5km/h and tackle slopes.
TREKTOR – SITIA 🇫🇷
It is a hybrid autonomous tractor designed to perform repetitive tasks such as soil cultivation, spraying and hoeing. It can change its width (wheelbase) or his height (adjustable ground clearance) for different crops. Trektor’s three-point linkage makes it compatible with many existing implements. Power comes from a 25hp diesel engine and 8kW hydraulic and electrical motor. Price is over €200,000.
RoamIO – Korechi Innovations 🇨🇦
It is a small, agile “autonomous farming platform” which can be programmed to perform a range of different tasks in vineyards, orchards, farms and golf courses (for which it seems particularly suited). The robot is relatively lightweight at 120kg, but it can carry as much as 450kg, and tow as much as 2,200kg. Current uses include seeding cover crops, grass cutting, monitoring vine health and gathering data. Price is around $40,000 per unit.
VineScout – Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) 🇪🇸
An autonomous robot from Spain that collects local temperatures, humidity, biomass (NDVI) and other data for high-resolution maps, recently showed its third prototype. VS-3 has new features and components, such as an improved steering system, time-of-flight sensor (for depth-mapping), and better batteries. It’s being tested at Symington Family Estates’ Quinta de Ataíde vineyards in Portugal. It can map 3.5ha per day. Target customers include cooperating winegrowers and contractors.
VitiBot’s Bakus – Cédric Bache 🇫🇷
It is an autonomous, fully electric vine-straddling tractor. It’s capable of mechanical weeding, vine monitoring and spraying. With its 75kWh lithium-ion batteries, the 2.5-ton Bakus can work for up to 10 hours. Price is likely to be similar to that of a conventional tractor, but the manufacturer claims it only requires about €1 worth of electricity per hour of operation. Chablis producer Domaine Louis Moreau uses a Bakus for its groundwork.
Thorvald – Korechi Innovations 🇬🇧
It is being developed to treat vines (and strawberries, above) with UV rays. “Our goal is for Thorvald to play a key role in the transition to more sustainable and efficient farming practices, and we see enormous market opportunities for growth internationally in all the segments we operate in,” said Pål Johan From, CEO of Saga Robotics.