Researchers from several European countries have teamed up to develop an artificially intelligent robot capable of managing vineyards. The unmanned robot can gather information on production, water levels, grape composition and vegetative development and send it to grape growers.
The robot is part of the European project VineRobot, whose partners met recently at the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV). The project, in which the Agricultural Robotics Laboratory of the UPV is taking part, is led by the Universidad de La Rioja. Completing the consortium are the Spanish company Avanzare, the French FORCE-A and Wall-YE, and the Italian Sivis, together with Les Vignerons de Buzet, a wine cellar cooperative near Bordeaux; and the Hochschule Geisenheim University (Germany).
The major advantage of this project is the availability of a large quantity of automatically obtained data, that users will be able to interpret using an easy-to-understand maps.
“Robotics and precision agriculture provide producers with powerful tools in order to improve the competitiveness of their farms. Robots like the one we are developing within this project will not substitute the vine grower, but will facilitate their work, so they can avoid the hardest part in field. It has several advantages including the ability to predict grape production or its degree of ripeness in order to immediately assess its quality without touching it,” say Javier Tardaguila, project manager and researcher at the University of La Rioja, and Francisco Rovira, researcher at the Agricultural Robotics Laboratory of the UPV.
Within the project meeting held at the UPV, the researchers presented the first robot prototype on which they have been working for a year. The robot includes a basic safety circuit with many emergency switches and a bumper that stops the robot at any obstacle. The first working year has been focused on two sections: on one side, the robot’s mobility in the field, improving the suspension and traction systems in order to climb up slopes with weeds; and in the other side, the development and improvement of the different sensors that will be included in the robot.
The challenges for the next year are to give the robot the autonomy to safely drive between the vineyard lines using stereoscopic vision, integrating a side camera which will provide information about the vegetation status of the plants and possible bunches, and coupling the sensors on the robot.