A University of Adelaide and industry collaboration has developed a digital platform to help grapegrowers optimise their irrigation and crop management.
VitiVisor collects information directly from the vineyard, using cameras and sensors. It then analyses the large amounts of data produced to assess vineyard performance and, for the first time, offer coordinated advice on management practices such as irrigation, pruning, fertiliser, fungicide and pesticide applications.
It is the result of a $5 million digital technologies project supporting on-farm decision making for winegrape production. The collaboration includes the University, Riverland Wine and Wine Australia, with support from UniSA and Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA).
The project brought together researchers in viticulture, engineering, remote sensing, farm economics, water accounting, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, with grapegrowers and their deep knowledge of vineyard production and processes from the Riverland wine region.
The project is being developed in partnership with Riverland growers but the end product will be an open source platform, expandable over time, allowing anyone to add new applications and usable by all growers.
Riverland Wine executive chair Chris Byrne initiated the project because the region is Australia's largest wine-growing area and has specific needs due to the scale of operations and its market position.
Byrne brought together motivated growers and advisors from the region to work with the university on ways to reduce production costs.
The digital platform includes cameras and sensors in the vineyard, collecting data and analysing its performance. For example, it can measure canopy growth, fruit production, sap flow and soil moisture.
It means growers can track and predict how actions like the application of water, fertiliser and herbicides and various canopy management strategies relate to vineyard outcomes such as fruit yield and quality.
The information is displayed as a dashboard, giving growers a quick snapshot of what is happening in their vineyards. It is then a simple process to share information about vineyard performance with their advisors.
The vineyard level information can also be combined with market and farm cost information, which can guide decisions to maximise farm returns.
For Byrne, the project is a key part of the company’s strategic plan to “transition our industry to the new wine era through building members’ knowledge, rebuilding the brand and influencing industry decisions. This technology will empower and enable growers to achieve excellence in all aspects of their wine growing and winemaking.”
Wine Australia helped shape the project and PIRSA is providing project management, ensuring a quick start so the team can collect data this season.
Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark said considering the rapid evolution of technology in viticulture, it was “exciting to see an integrated approach to developing a single, open-source system that will combine many of these advances to help support decision making for grapegrowers all around Australia”.
University of Adelaide AgriFood and Wine director and project supervisor Professor Andy Lowe said: “The University of Adelaide has key strategic priorities in agrifood and wine and has deliberately aligned itself with industry and state needs.”
Last year, Pernod Ricard Winemakers, also based in South Australia, announced it was working with artificial intelligence software specialist Complexica to digitise its supply chain systems across multiple operating sites in Australia, the US and Spain (Food & Drink Business, 19/06/2019). It was #39 in our 2019 Australia's Top 100 Food & Drink Companies report.