Autonomous Viticultural Tractors2021|24:08
Pernod Ricard Winemakers, producer of Brancott Estate, Stoneleigh, Montana and Church Road wines, and Marlborough-based agri-tech start-up Smart Machine, have developed the most advanced Autonomous Vineyard Tractor (AVT) of its kind in New Zealand.The technology, Oxin, is the first to combine viticulture, engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, with deep knowledge of vineyard production and processes to carry out tasks including mowing, mulching, leaf removal and trimming. The vehicles autonomously navigate pre-determined ‘missions’ in the vineyard that are allocated by an operator. With safety a key focus, the vehicles have been designed to detect hazards and will pause its mission upon detection until an operator has checked it is safe to continue.The autonomous and multi-tasking abilities of the vehicles result in less fuel consumption per hectare than conventional tractors, making them a more fuel efficient and sustainable approach to viticulture.Smart Machine, whose founders have experience in mechanical design, automation and viticulture, worked in partnership with Pernod Ricard Winemakers to develop the industry- leading technology following a rigorous process of research, development and validation. Pernod Ricard Winemakers is currently piloting four AVTs in our Marlborough Vineyards, capable of operating across 850 hectares, with an additional five vehicles to be added to the fleet in spring 2021.