3rd April, 2014 by Lauren Eads
The “world’s first” robotic pruner, dubbed Wall-Ye by its maker, arrived in Oregon this week to give its winemakers a glimpse of what could be the future of viticulture.
Wall-Ye, named so because of its uncanny likeness to the loveable Wall-E from the Pixar film of the same name, was invented by Christophe Millot who gave winemakers a demonstration at a vineyard in Carlton this week, according to a report by Oregonlive.com.
The high-tech pruner is controlled by its Burgundy-based inventor via an iPad and can work for 12 hours a day “without making a mistake”, Millot said, who has already sold 30 of the machines to winemakers in France for around US$30,000.
Wall-Ye is about the size of a lawnmower and is fitted with three cameras and software to ensure it remembers every cut from season to season.
One camera recognises woody material and tells the robot to move in for the clip while another guides the procedure itself.
Wall-Ye even defends vines from birds and deer able to pick up a bird’s presence at 150 yards and then send out a green, non-damaging laser to scare it off.
At night, the robot uses infrared sensors to spot intruding deer and can reach speeds of 15 mph to chase them away from the vines.
The demonstration was called for ahead of Oregon’s Precision Farming Expo in McMinnville, which will include discussions on agricultural uses for pilotless drones, “smart” irrigation systems and the future of Oregon farming.
Millot said that since launching the machine in 2012, he has faced opposition in France where the tradition of citizens pitching in to help harvest the year’s grape crop is an age-old tradition.
He told Oregonlive.com: “You will never see these robotic harvesters in my country.”
“If there is a future for these devices, it is in the United States and other wine-growing countries.”