#Ted in the West – Part 2
Very active in the southwest of France, Ted, the weeding robot, is involved in two major research and development projects in partnership with wine cooperatives in Gironde and Dordogne. The goal: to give producers the opportunity to test, under real operating conditions within their vineyards, an alternative to existing weeding methods, before they promulgate these new practices among their members. And all the while, Ted is allowed to grow, improve and develop progressively based on the feedback from the field. This month, discover the project implemented with the Monbazillac cooperative winery and many institutional and professional partners.
Development of agri-environmental practices
The vines of Chateau Monbazillac are regularly used as a full-scale experimentation ground.
“With mating disruption tests, to control certain insects, or the BatViti project to assess the predation of bats on pests… we always focus on innovations that can feed into the development of viticulture. The Monbazillac cooperative winery directly manages the estate of the Chateau and enables these projects to expand: once the efficiency of these methods has been validated, we can pass them on to our members and make them benefit from our experience” saidGuillaume Barou, Vice-President of the cooperative which gathers some fifty winegrowers of the appellation with their 900 hectares of vines.
The latest R&D project? It consists in experimenting mechanical weeding using the autonomous robot Ted. This project is part of the VitiRev initiative of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region to innovate in the wine sector and it is intended to develop agri-environmental practices within Laboratories for Territorial Innovation. Cécile Lelabousse, Environment Project Manager at IVBD* and animator for VitiRev in the Bergerac, explains: “We support the producers looking to set up collective projects so they become players in the transition. As both a study material and a real experiment, the concept is to determine if this technology can actually be a practical tool for reducing chemical inputs in the vine”.
A response tailored to the various business needs
That is how Ted has earned a place since the end of April 2019 among the botrytised grapes. Tested on 7 hectares, each of its outings gives rise to surveys, calculations and tests based on a protocol established with Naio, so as to gauge the efficiency of weeding, the ergonomics, how the robot adapts to the field, its mechanical and software use, its tools and equipment… Then, Ted will be deployed on 12 additional hectares at Château Le Barradis, organic farm of the PDO, to face it with its limitations during endurance tests.
According to Thibaut Delcroix, Vineyard Product Manager at Naio, “the point in putting the robot on the field is to get the most relevant feedback possible from the professionals of the sector. Through such partnerships, we undertake to cover the territory and increase the number of experimentations within close, yet diversified, pedoclimatic and geographical contexts. Our intention is to be able eventually to provide a maximum of winegrowers with the solutions tailored to their real needs”.
Inter-professional, viticultural, agricultural, departmental and educational partnership
The story does not end there: fueled by the Monbazillac cooperative and the IVBD, several partners joined the project. As Cécile Lelabousse explains “The Chamber of Agriculture, which already brings the technical knowledge, will also disseminate the results of the experimentation to its counterparts. During the second year of the project, the agricultural equipment company Somaref will be working on the prototype of an electric rotary brush to further equip Ted in addition to the mechanical weeding solution”. Moreover, during the school year 2019-2020, the students from the Vocational School “Lycée des Métiers” Hélène Duc de Bergerac will be working towards the design of a mechanical tool to break up tracks and rotary tools for Ted.
“Viticulture has to be reinvented and we are convinced that it is important to be a stakeholder in the development of new solutions, to co-create tools that meet our expectations” saysGuillaume Barou. “Our goal is to prove that robotics can be an efficient and profitable solution for plant health. And at the end of this experimentation, we can say that it has been efficient if all the obstacles are removed and that we’re happy with the finalized tool.” Apart from the members of the Monbazillac cooperative winery, the project may open prospects to other vineyards since the results will be made public. Not to mention that the multidisciplinary dimension of this project makes it possible to bring together different players of a territory in line with a dynamic that is favorable for viticulture as a whole, and ‘virtuous’ from the environmental perspective.
* IVBD, ‘Interprofession des Vins de Bergerac et Duras’ – Inter-profession of Bergerac and Duras wines.
More info about TED robot? Follow the link!
Find Part 1 of this mini-series #Ted in the West, about the project carried out in the wine cooperative Univitis.