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Digital mapping project unlocks new future for vineyard production

A new project creating an open-source initiative for data integration paves the way for a new chapter in wine production.


In the rapidly changing landscape of modern agriculture, creating a standard for digital mapping is fundamental for deploying tech onto farms. Digital maps enable valuable decision-making support to structured farming environments.


Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme and UKRI’s Transforming Food Production Challenge is supporting a new project: Vineyard Information System for Technology and Automation, or ‘VISTA’. This will create an open standard for digital maps of commercial vineyards in the UK and around the world, supporting the drive to deploy more automation and precision systems onto farms.


The project is led by a consortium of leading industry partners and will start by digitally mapping vineyards at the row and individual vine level, using JoJo’s Vineyard in Oxfordshire as a first test site. The project includes collaboration between tech experts from Agri-EPI Centre, crop mapping specialists from Outfield Technologies, roboticists from Antobot, viticultural consultants from Vinescapes, and robotic mapping researchers from the University of Lincoln.


Eliot Dixon, Head of Engineering at Agri-EPI Centre, said:

“The agricultural industry has a strong need for increased data integration to unlock the true potential of precision agriculture across all sectors. As an industry which is inherently focussed on infrastructure, the key to getting this integration right is being able to communicate in a language-focussed infrastructure. This is what VISTA is all about as a project, creating a mapping standard for agriculture that allows robotics, drones, sensors and decision support tools to communicate, integrate their data and provide maximum benefit for farmers. Viticulture is just the start; we hope to see this basic principle being used in other sectors.”


Drone, robot and in-field sensors will be used to monitor climate and weather, crop health, soil moisture, fruit counts, and fruit quality, with the VISTA map providing the digital backbone to process this data. In the second year of the project, the high-resolution VISTA map will then be used to drive precision spraying systems on the farm and to produce accurate pre-harvest yield maps for growers. These two use cases have been chosen to show what a flexible, high resolution mapping standard can bring to farms worldwide. The consortium is excited to explore many more applications in the future.


Ian Beecher-Jones, Co-owner of JoJo’s Vineyard, said:

“JoJo’s Vineyard is delighted to be the lead vineyard in the VISTA project. We have been developing precision viticultural technologies for the last couple of years and have a strong belief the project will continue the work we have achieved in the Innovate UK Viticulture 4.0 project, which highlighted the importance of establishing a robust digital infrastructure on which all other technologies can work efficiently and effectively.”


Oli Hilbourne, CEO and Co-Founder at Outfield Technologies said:

“The VISTA Project is a great example of the strength of UK innovation funding, bringing together technology companies, growers and academic partners to solve specific industry challenges. The UK’s wine industry is growing rapidly, learning best practice from other wine growing regions. With VISTA, the UK wine industry has an opportunity to set the international standard and export our knowledge to the rest of the wine growing world. We are really excited to get started on the project and work with UK vineyards to drive increases in productivity.”

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.

Ian said:

“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.


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