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Drones provide data

Precision agriculture company Aerobotics made recommendations relating to post-harvest vineyard management to a roomful of wine farmers at the first event of its kind at Workshop17 in Paarl. Aerobotics hosted the event to help farmers and the industry get new ideas and input on how to use the latest innovations in precision agriculture to lay the foundation for a strong start to next season.

The presentation and recommendations were made by Aerobotics’ Head of Agronomy Devin Osborne. He spoke of how to use technology to achieve uniformity in the vineyard.

Osborne also made recommendations for when farmers should use drone technology and analytics to build a better foundation for next season.

He said: “Many of farmers are misled into believing that the variation in vineyards attributes to the uniqueness of the wine and start talking about terroir. The key to growing world-class grapes and producing an excellent wine is obtaining uniformity as this allows for consistency. We can then start talking about terroir.”

Osborne said the first drone flight of the season should be done at first leaf. Using Aerobotics to obtain and process the data from this flight will enable farmers to monitor early season growth, evaluate bud break and locate deficiencies in vine resources.

The second drone flight should happen during flowering and fruit set.

The third drone flight should be conducted during fruit ripening, known in the wine industry as veraison.

According to Osborne, there is also important use for drone flights after the harvest is completed. The data and analytics from this flight can be used to locate vines and blocks that are stressed after the harvest.

This enables wine farmers to create zonal maps for representative sampling and also helps them to prune moderately on less fertile zones and harder on more fertile zones.

“Healthier vines during this period generally have higher carbohydrate levels going into dormancy,” said Osborne. “Partnering with Aerobotics to capture and process the data from post-harvest drone flights empowers farmers to build a solid foundation for the next season.”

Aerobotics processes data from drone and satellite imagery through its proprietary artificial intelligence software to discover and analyse problems, pests and diseases affecting individual trees or vines on a farm.

In addition to health, the software also measures size, height and canopy volume.

This type of highly accurate data empowers farmers to make better decisions in the field, so they can increase their yield and produce a more balanced crop.

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