While many of us may fantasize about running a vineyard someplace like the south of France, doing so wouldn't actually be all ... well, wine and roses. For one thing, you'd need to regularly walk up and down all those rows of vines, continuously stopping to check on the plants themselves and their grapes. It's the sort of thing that it would be nice if a robot could do. A robot like the VineRobot.

The robot is currently being developed through the European Union VineRobot project. Led by Spain's Universidad de La Rioja, the project involves eight partner groups from the wine-making countries of France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

The envisioned final version of the VineRobot

The idea is that the solar-powered VineRobot will move autonomously on its four wheels, using RGB stereoscopic machine vision and GPS to navigate its way up and down the rows of the vineyard.

Along the way, it will utilize technologies such as chlorophyll-based fluorescence sensing and infrared thermography to non-invasively monitor parameters such as vegetative growth, grape yield, grape composition (from which grape ripeness can be deduced), and soil moisture. That data will be wirelessly transmitted from the robot to a satellite, and from there to an app on the viticulturist's mobile device.

According to the project organizers, the VineRobot should be faster and more precise than humans doing the same job, plus it should be cheaper and allow for more flexibility than using manned aircraft or aerial drones.

The project is due to wrap up at the end of next year.

Sources: RUVID (Spanish), VineRobot

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