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Digital vineyard mapping project aims to revolutionise viticulture

A new vineyard project aims to create an open-source initiative for data integration which could potentially revolutionise wine production in the UK and globally.

(Image: Agri-epicentre)

With digital mapping increasingly becoming important for decision making, the Vineyard Information System for Technology and Automation (VISTA) scheme will create an open standard for digital maps of commercial vineyards within the UK and also potentially globally, which could support more automation in farming operations.

The project will start digitally mapping vineyards at a row and even an individual vine level, using JoJo’s Vineyard in Oxfordshire as the first test site on the Defra-supported programme. Drone, robot and in-field sensors will be used to monitor climate and weather, crop health, soil moisture, fruit counts, and fruit quality, with the VISTA map providing the digital platform to process the data.

Precision spraying

In the second year of the project, the map will then be used to drive precision spraying systems on the farm, and to produce accurate pre-harvest yield maps for growers.

The project is led by a consortium which includes collaboration tech experts from Agri-EPI Centre, crop mapping specialists from Outfield Technologies, roboticists from Antobot, viticultural consultants from Vinescapes, and robotic mapping researchers from the University of Lincoln.

Eliot Dixon, head of engineering at Agri-EPI Centre, said the industry had a “strong need” for increase data integration to unlock the potential of precision agriculture.

Just the start

He said: “As an industry which is inherently focussed on infrastructure, the key to getting this integration right is being able to communicate in a language-focussed infrastructure.

“This is what VISTA is all about as a project, creating a mapping standard for agriculture that allows robotics, drones, sensors and decision support tools to communicate, integrate their data and provide maximum benefit for farmers. Viticulture is just the start; we hope to see this basic principle being used in other sectors.”

Strong belief

Ian Beecher-Jones, co-owner of JoJo’s Vineyard, said it was “delighted” to be the lead vineyard in the project, and had been developing precision viticultural technologies for the last couple of years.

He said: “(We) have a strong belief the project will continue the work we have achieved in the Innovate UK Viticulture 4.0 project, which highlighted the importance of establishing a robust digital infrastructure on which all other technologies can work efficiently and effectively.”

Oli Hilbourne, CEO and Co-Founder at Outfield Technologies added that the project was a “great example” of the strength of UK innovation funding.

He said: “The UK’s wine industry is growing rapidly, learning best practice from other wine growing regions. With VISTA, the UK wine industry has an opportunity to set the international standard and export our knowledge to the rest of the wine growing world.”

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