Precision farmer explores innovation in viticulture
Ian Beecher-Jones, co-owner of JoJo’s Vineyard in Oxfordshire, has been a precision farming adviser for several years and is part of Agri-EPI Centre’s innovation farm network. At JoJo’s Vineyard, he is growing 6 different varieties of grapes to make still and sparkling wine and incorporates agri-tech at every level possible to enhance efficiency, sustainability and productivity.
JoJo’s vineyard is situated in the Chiltern Hills, near Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire. At the vineyard, Ian utilises the latest technology from drones, robots, satellites and data, which helps the team at JoJo’s make the best grapes possible.
There are many great traditions in vine growing that shouldn’t be lost. Ian explains that blending in new technology alongside the traditions will create an opportunity for vineyards in the UK to produce a product suited for the next new world in a sustainable way.
“We’re excited to be working with Agri-EPI to explore the opportunities for JoJo’s and the rest of the UK vineyards. The UK viticulture sector is on an incredibly upward journey, but we have to be aware of producing wine in the most efficient and sustainable way.”
Ian, in collaboration with Agri-EPI and robotics technology company, Antobot, has recently embarked on two projects at JoJo’s vineyard, one to create a vineyard digital infrastructure map, and the other for on-the-ground monitoring using the Antobot robot.
The mapping tool, developed with the Collabriculture project in South Australia, aims to create a shareable, digital infrastructure map of the vineyard’s rows and boundaries. The map can then be shared with any ag tech companies wishing to work with vineyards around the world. The model is the foundation on which drones, robots and vehicles can plan navigation paths before arriving on site, avoiding time wastage from surveying. This will improve the efficiency of data gathering services on farm.
Ian has described it as a contextualisation map as it gives context to all the other digital data maps that are generated on the vineyard.
“If I can’t overlay my rows and blocks on the satellite, drone or robot generated maps I get back, I can’t identify exactly where the variation is.”
“It is the share-ability of the digital infrastructure that is key to establishing a reliable and trustworthy data platform we can all work from. Once established we can share it with a range of ag-tech companies who see the benefits and opportunities of working with one of the fastest growing crops sectors in the country.”
“The exciting aspect about this project is the global potential to remove cost for growers and speed up the time it takes to engage with ag-technology companies whether they are providing drone, robot, satellite or software services. We are all working from the same infrastructure data.”
Vineyards are an ideal environment to work in since the pathways between the rows create a roadway for robots to travel. The robots are fitted with high level GPS and LIDAR systems to help them navigate around the vineyard.
The robots at JoJo’s will carry cameras and sensing equipment to monitor and analyse the vines and grapes as they grow during the year. Gathering data is a time consuming task. Robots and drones will speed that up.