The cooperative group Terrena (behind the La Nouvelle Agriculture brand) has been conducting trials in the Grand Ouest region of France for more than 10 years, to develop more sustainable agricultural practices, respectful of our ecosystems. For vineyards, this includes research into alternatives to chemical weeding. It was therefore inevitable that TED would get involved!
Since turning away from Ecologically Intensive Agriculture in 2008, the agricultural and agri-food cooperative group Terrena, with more than 21,000 farmer members in the Pays de la Loire region, has opted for a strategy of innovation to support the transformation of agricultural practices. “In the wine industry, this means searching for intelligent and innovative solutions, working to reduce the inputs on plots” sums up Matthieu Haudebourg, Innovation Project Manager at Terrena.
The cooperative, which is working on the project with its subsidiaries LVVD (wine distribution and consulting) and Orchidées Maisons de Vin, “has for several years been exploring alternatives to chemical solutions, such as mechanical weeding and in particular robotic solutions“. As part of the Val de Loire ERUDIT wine research and trial project, Terrena Innovation has therefore brought together LVVD, Orchidées MV, the French Institute of Vine and Wine (IFV) and Naïo Technologies on a 2-year R&D programme, co-financed by the Pays de la Loire region, aimed at testing the robot Ted under the conditions on the Anjou-Saumur vineyard.
Understanding how robotics changes technical processes
For Matthieu Haudebourg, “robotic solutions are interesting because they meet the needs of winegrowers, i.e. the need to move away from herbicides while remedying the workforce issue. The struggle to recruit qualified staff is a key issue in the sector”.
Ted has already completed two rounds of weeding in spring and summer 2019, over 2 hectares of well-established vines belonging to Orchidées Maisons de Vin, as well as three plots belonging to the IFV, at its experimental estate of Montreuil-Bellay located right beside it. “The IFV is using the robot on planting processes, so on young vines, offering additional experience, in a different context and under different conditions. The aim is to acquire techno-economic references on all robotic mechanical weeding processes, i.e. to understand how robotics changes the mechanical weeding processes as practiced here” explains Matthieu Haudebourg.
Supporting winegrowers in the Pays de la Loire in their transition
Adaptation of new tools on the robot, transport to and positioning on the plot, frequency and speed of passage… until 2021, each outing of Ted will be closely monitored, and the data observed to allow methods to be adjusted to local conditions. “The climate, type of soil and spacing between rows at the vineyards of the region are specific and we want to adapt this technology to our territories, applications and processes.”
Conferences and demonstrations are planned over the next two years and the regional entities involved in the project should be able to support the volunteers, using knowledge acquired on the ground. In particular, LVVD, which is monitoring the trials on the plots belonging to Orchidées MV, will use its network of winegrowers and technicians to disseminate the results among professionals, in line with the wishes of the Terrena group to expand technically and economically viable alternative weeding practices. “These trials can, in due course, convince and support winegrowers to adopt these new technologies, which some are still finding it quite hard to envisage”, thinks Matthieu Haudebourg. “At the end of the project, we can say to them, “this is how it works and here are the costs and the technical processes and applications we recommend”.”