by Thomas Grandperrin
Our team was at SITEVI (an international exhibition of equipment and consolidation of expertise for vine-wine, olive, and fruit & vegetable professionals) last week in Montpellier, located in beautiful Southern France. With 1,100 exhibitors and 57,000 visitors, it has become the biggest specialized equipment exhibition in the world and definitely one of the most impressive wine industry trade shows we have been to.
The field equipment ranged from pruning shears, harvest machine, precision sprayers, and weed-removing robots. Postharvest equipment included wine barrels and tanks of all materials and shapes, and the latest laboratory equipment was on display as well. As expected, representatives of various French wine regions were abundant, and well known international brands were well represented. On a side note, thanks again to the reps from Jackson Family Wine from California, with whom we had the pleasure of discussing precision viticulture and drone-based remote sensing. With a diverse and knowledgeable crowd (as well as a liberal sampling of some quality wines), virtually no topic from the wine industry was left uncovered!
From vineyard management to winemaking equipment
After observing trends for the last several years, one thing we are confident of is that precision viticulture is now a permanent part of the landscape and will be growing in size and sophistication. To help keep track of the emerging technologies, here are just a few of the French precision agriculture technology companies you may want to follow. Geocarta offers high-resolution soil mapping services thanks to their patented Automatic Resistivity Profiling (ARP), which was developed with the support of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA). Their technology helps to precisely characterize soil intra-block spatial variability, the type of data that is highly complementary to drone-based remote sensing data. In the category of proximity and hand-carried sensors, Force-A develops optical tools to measure characteristics of the vines or wood, leaves, and fruits with the goal of supporting the main tasks of vineyard management: pruning, fertilization and harvest. While the use of Force-A’s tools makes economic sense primarily for premium vineyards whose grapes command higher price points, for now, we are excited about the wider adoption of these technologies and we’ll definitely keep an eye on them.
Being introduced to so many great innovations in a short period of time might raise a few questions: How do you, as a grower, agronomist consultant or winemaker, avoid being overwhelmed? How do you easily manage all of this valuable data and effectively integrate them in your daily and strategic field management decision making and task management processes?
Providing simple, effective and easily implementable answers to those questions are core missions of UAV-IQ. We believe in interoperability and design our platforms with the intent of facilitating data transfer so you can centralize and visualize your data in a single platform. Our platform helps you integrate data collected and stored in various formats (for example, soil maps and ground sensor data) in your UAV-IQ account and then manage who within your team can access the information. For those familiar with other SIG or farm management software, we can help you export your UAV-IQ products to the tools your team is already using.
While the “sustainable” movement is often thought of in terms of consumer preference, and thus a way for growers to increase their retail price, we met many viticulturists and field workers who are genuinely concerned about their own as well as the consumers’ health. We had passionate discussions about the opportunity brought by advances in spraying traditional products with drones, which can limit workers’ exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, and also about the exciting emerging technology that enables the release of beneficial insects via drone to effectively implement biological pest control. Unfortunately, current French legislation doesn’t currently allow it, but it is anticipated that the law may be revised in the near future.
Thankfully, some alternative solutions already exist. Not all of these solutions are new, as some providers have been around for half a century, but their offerings are more relevant than ever before. For example, Semences de Provence (and their Portuguese partner Fertiprado) offers cover planting solutions for vineyards and orchard owners who desire to reduce their fertilizer usage while increasing biodiversity as part of their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies – specifically, as part of conservation biological control strategies which promote populations of natural enemies.
One other recent innovation we were excited to see is the fleet of mower-robots developed by VitiRover that aim to replace chemical weeding and potentially the use of glyphosate if it ever becomes banned by the European Union in the coming years.
We are looking forward to coming back to the next edition in 2019 to meet amazing growers and see the progress made by all these innovative companies sharing our mission to make farming more profitable and sustainable!
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