In April 2019, the cooperative winery of Tutiac organized a demo for innovative soil equipment for wine growers from the Bordeaux area. Under a radiant sun, Ted, our vineyard weeding robot was alternatively fitted with Kress finger weeders and interplant blades. The robot worked the vine rows all day long, under the watchful eye of over 500 visitors.
Innovation in soil work for vineyards
After their 2018 edition was dedicated to spraying techniques, this year’s demo day focused on soil work and innovation for wine growers.
Fanny GIZARDIN, vineyard advisor at the Cooperative Winery of Tutiac
“Today’s wine growers have to face an increasingly complex context. They have a hard time recruiting specialized tractor drivers and need to deal with a growing number of economic constraints, especially the ever rising costs. The expected disappearance of glyphosate weedkillers is another problem issue. Anticipation is essential, which is why we decided to organize a demo day with all available solutions. I believe that it was important for our wine growers to see Ted in action, as the robot offers a potential solution. Our industry will need to make some adjustments but the wine growers who were present today are motivated to change.”
Autonomous vineyard weeding tools to save time
During the demo, all of the wine growers mentioned their difficulties in recruiting tractor drivers. This issue takes increasing proportions as it emerges at the same time as the progressive prohibition of chemical weedkillers. In this context, autonomous electric robots draw genuine attention.
David HOUDET – Wine Crop Manager at the Château Marquis de Terme Winery, grand cru classé Margaux
“Last year, I slightly earthed up the rows in autumn and then ploughed them in spring. Depending on the soil, I then use a disc harrow to break down the clumps and a regular harrow to even out the soil. For weed maintenance, I apply Actisol, at least two to three times. We combine tractor use with a trimmer and interplant device.
Ted could help us save time. Over time, I can very well imagine 2 robots that work side by side in the vineyard, while an operator walks between them to tackle the finer details.”
The cost of weeding vineyards
Every weeding solution has a cost. Even though chemical weeding solutions appear less expensive at first sight, their availbility is declining and wine growers are looking for alternative solutions. Robotic solutions appear to require a relatively high investment at the start, but robotic weeders like Ted draw increasing interest as a reliable alternative.
Benoît CACQUEVEL – wine grower in the Cognac area.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the demo we just saw of Ted is the way forward. First of all, because the tool is electric. And secondly, because Ted offers a real alternative to chemical weedkillers for large surfaces. If we required a tractor driver to do the job, we’d have to hire him full-time, which is impossible for us! In the long run, I’m convinced that robots like Ted will be able to handle all the work in the vineyard: soil work, but also mowing, trimming and topping. What also appeals to me is the robot’s autonomy: we can place it in a particular plot in the morning, retrieve it in the evening and the work is done. I think the investment will be quickly profitable.”
Laurent NICOLON – Château les Ravaud vineyard, administrator of la Cave des vignerons de Tutiac
“Consumers want everything at once: really good wine that’s not too expensive. Wine growers really need to increase mechanization in vineyards. But mechanical work takes up a lot more time. As a consequence, we need to look for multifunctional and autonomous tools. Ted seems a viable solution to tackle both time management issues as well as the increase in fuel costs.”