Grape expectations as drones aid wineries in climate fight

Grape expectations as drones aid wineries in climate fight

news, environment, canberra region wineries, drones, winery drones, climate change

Drone technology is being deployed to increase yields for Canberra region wineries, after some of the toughest successive years for the area. Using a multi-spectral camera to provide infra-red imaging of plant growth, the mapping of neighbouring vineyards will provide growers comparative data on which varietals will withstand the test of a changing climate. With several growers losing entire crops to January hailstorms and those who survived now fighting the effects of record summer rainfall, the AgriFutures funded investment could provide a major boost for the industry. Norton Road Wines’ Simon Stratton said drone images could potentially train artificial intelligence to detect pests or disease by comparing against healthy imaging. Once the AI was trained, it would identify when and where targeted intervention might be required, allowing growers to cut down on the use of pesticides, he said. “This offers the potential for a significant change in practices, labour and input costs,” Mr Stratton said. Alongside winemakers in South Australia and cotton-growers in the central west of NSW, the Viticulture Society of the Canberra District were among those chosen to take part of a AgriFutures technology program whereby funding is provided to trial new digital technologies. The drone costs more than $8000, with a grape-counting GoPro the next big-ticket item being considered. There was an expectation the viticulture society would be able to share its data with the Australian Table Grape Growers’ Association in Mildura, which was looking specifically at the potential for AI under its current AgriFutures project. Mr Stratton said the first step for Canberra region wine growers this vintage was to get baseline maps. “Once you map a vineyard out, you can basically return to that map and the drone will repeat the exact course again,” he said. “That way it’ll pick up what’s happened over the growing season. The idea is we do three or four maps of each block and then year on year we can compare what’s happening. This can be used to sort of monitor how different varieties are going. READ ALSO: “For example, Mount Majura Vineyard are trialling different Spanish varietals like Tempranillo and Albarino. They’ve basically replaced a lot of their more traditional varieties because they’re more suited to a drier sort of climate.” Mr Stratton said his block was planted in the 1990s which meant he’d soon be replacing vines. Data from the drone will be used to pick up gaps within the vineyard where a new line should be planted. It will also offer insight into how individual rows are performing. “We know these things from driving up and down or walking up and down, but this gives us an actual image to work with as well,” he said. “While this technology is being trialled around the world, it’s now at a scale where smaller regions like ours can share this resource.” Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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Drone technology is being deployed to increase yields for Canberra region wineries, after some of the toughest successive years for the area.

Using a multi-spectral camera to provide infra-red imaging of plant growth, the mapping of neighbouring vineyards will provide growers comparative data on which varietals will withstand the test of a changing climate.

Norton Road Wines’ Simon Stratton said drone images could potentially train artificial intelligence to detect pests or disease by comparing against healthy imaging.

Once the AI was trained, it would identify when and where targeted intervention might be required, allowing growers to cut down on the use of pesticides, he said.

Simon Stratton and Greg Mader use drone technology to map the yield at Clonakilla winery. Picture: Keegan Carroll

“This offers the potential for a significant change in practices, labour and input costs,” Mr Stratton said.

Alongside winemakers in South Australia and cotton-growers in the central west of NSW, the Viticulture Society of the Canberra District were among those chosen to take part of a AgriFutures technology program whereby funding is provided to trial new digital technologies.

The drone costs more than $8000, with a grape-counting GoPro the next big-ticket item being considered.

There was an expectation the viticulture society would be able to share its data with the Australian Table Grape Growers’ Association in Mildura, which was looking specifically at the potential for AI under its current AgriFutures project.

The winemakers have ‘grape’ expectations for the technology. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Mr Stratton said the first step for Canberra region wine growers this vintage was to get baseline maps.

“Once you map a vineyard out, you can basically return to that map and the drone will repeat the exact course again,” he said.

“That way it’ll pick up what’s happened over the growing season. The idea is we do three or four maps of each block and then year on year we can compare what’s happening. This can be used to sort of monitor how different varieties are going.

“For example, Mount Majura Vineyard are trialling different Spanish varietals like Tempranillo and Albarino. They’ve basically replaced a lot of their more traditional varieties because they’re more suited to a drier sort of climate.”

Mr Stratton said his block was planted in the 1990s which meant he’d soon be replacing vines. Data from the drone will be used to pick up gaps within the vineyard where a new line should be planted. It will also offer insight into how individual rows are performing.

“We know these things from driving up and down or walking up and down, but this gives us an actual image to work with as well,” he said.

“While this technology is being trialled around the world, it’s now at a scale where smaller regions like ours can share this resource.”

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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