Symingtons test vineyard robots

Port producers Symington Family Estates has helped trial a new robot, which has been designed to monitor vines in areas where human labour is in short supply.

The new bot is named ‘VineScout’ and is the result of a cooperative effort between two Spanish universities, Valencia and La Rioja, the Wall-YE Robots & Software company in France, Sundance Multiprocessor Technologies in the UK and Symington Family Estates, with further funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 ‘Fast Track to Innovation’ scheme.

Designed to be autonomous and capable of monitoring temperature and taking other readings to help viticulturists and winemakers with vineyard management, the robot is meant to be deployed in areas where de-population of the countryside – with younger people moving en masse to the cities, a real problem in Spain and Portugal – is making labour harder and more expensive to find.

VineScout was field-tested at Symington’s Quinta do Ataíde Grape Variety Project at the end of August, with the project coordinator, Francisco Rovira-Más, and Fernando Alves, the Symington Viticulture R&D manager saying they were delighted with the results.

Symington are part of the five-member pan-European consortium that is developing the robot over a three-year period. The consortium hopes to have the VineScout ready for series production from 2019/20.

Also part of the field trial was an ‘Agronomy Day’, which saw other Port producers, universities, tech start-ups and research institutes come along to see VineScout in action and ask questions.

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