Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

AI robot project launches to support UK wine industry

Published:  06 August, 2020

A consortium formed to develop robotics for the UK's viticulture sector to assist in the identification of disease, precision pesticide treatments, and to support pruning and picking, has unveiled its first project. 

On trial in the UK now, the first development is a free flying drone driven by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine which, without the use of GPS, recognises any vineyard and autonomously maps the vines using a high definition camera, said the consortium.

With the environment mapped, the aim is to programme flight paths of the drones to map the chronology of the vines and to identify early signs of disease, or nutrient deficiencies, and report these directly to the vineyard manager. 

The team driving the innovation includes Dr Julien LeCourt, who is head of viticulture and wine R&D at Viticulture Research Group at NIAB EMR, with specialist AI company SkyEngine also forming part of the consortium, which is completed and led by Land Robots.  

“The UK has seen a significant increase in vineyard development including large investment from established French brands in recent years. The sector has pioneered the use of robotics in certain areas of the world, for vine monitoring and maintenance, but many of these systems are purely academic projects,” said LeCourt. 

“The consortium we have gathered is aimed at delivering practical ‘value engineered’ robotics solution to support the sector to increase wine quality and lower both the application of chemical pesticides and clearly costs,” he said.

Land Robots director, Robert Patten, added: “We have brought together the first members of an engineering-led consortium that will design, build and ‘teach’ a series of robots in support of – initially – the viticulture sector in the UK, but latterly all orchard crops. Using advanced modelling tools we have constructed a remarkably detailed vineyard training world for our AI tools to explore and learn."

Further details regarding the development of the technology are poised to be released in the coming weeks, with Land Robots saying it has plans for a series of robots all with the same aim.