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New robot to monitor vineyards

The viticulture of the future begins to be a reality thanks to robotics, big data and artificial intelligence. Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) have developed a new agricultural robot that, through different radiometric, spectral and ultrasound environmental sensors, allows the state of the vine to be recorded at all times.

It is the first fully electric viticultural observation robot, with autonomy for at least two days. Your name: VineScout, the result of seven years of work. In a totally autonomous way, it measures key parameters of the vineyard to estimate its water needs, vegetative development or anticipate the variation in the degree of maturity within the same plot.

VineScout makes it possible to estimate the water status and various climatic indicators in the vine environment at all times, helping the winegrower to optimize irrigation or plan the harvest more efficiently

“VineScout can monitor the vineyard as many times as the farmer needs, helping him to make a more rational use of water and, in general, to know the state of the vineyard through objective indicators, such as differences in plant vigor or properties of the fruits within of the same plot ”, he explains Francisco Rovira, director of the Laboratory of Agricultural Robotics (ARL) of the UPV, “helping to harvest, fertilize or irrigate in a more efficient way.”

The robot collects each data on the ground, less than one meter from the vines (without touching the crop at any time). This translates into obtaining highly reliable and accurate information, since each point is recorded with its GPS positioning, indicating the time and place where each measurement was made.

“It is capable of registering around 12,000 points per hour, each point with 30 data points, compared to traditional manual sampling, where it barely reaches 40 measurements per hour, which gives an idea of ​​how much this robot can facilitate its work. to the winegrowers ” Veronica Saiz, ARL researcher. And you can even sample at night as well, thanks to its night navigation system.

“With all the data that the robot records and processes, the producer obtains a map of his plot, which synthesizes the key information necessary for advanced crop management. VineScout does not replace the winegrower, what it does is facilitate his work, avoiding the hardest part in the field and enhancing his knowledge and experience, which is now nourished with more precise and more quickly updated information ”, Rovira emphasizes.

GPS independent system

To navigate through the plots, the robot incorporates a totally independent system from the GPS signal, one of the great advantages and differences with respect to other systems on the market. In this way, does not require reloading of pre-recorded maps, something that farmers are not used to and that ends up being a deterrent for the adoption of digital technologies. Thanks to it, VineScout is able to circulate through the vines autonomously, avoiding obstacles and collisions.

This robot is totally autonomous, incorporates radiometric, spectral and ultrasound environmental sensors, together with an advanced system that combines Vision and Artificial Intelligence

“This robot incorporates three perception devices in the front part. Two of them allow the system to navigate in a two-dimensional network and do not require the intervention of any operator to guide it when the robot moves between rows. In addition, the security system makes it stop at any obstacle that may appear on the road, waiting 7 seconds for the path to clear or stopping the robot safely and acoustically warning the operator if it is a permanent obstacle “, Add Andres Cuenca, also from the ARL.

In this way, VineScout opens the door to automation in crops where GPS technology or another global satellite navigation system (GNSS cannot be permanently and reliably guaranteed.

Applications in combines and sprayers

This system has been implemented in a ground robot whose main objective is to collect data from crops, but it could be included in many other autonomous systems, such as harvesters or harvesters, weed removal machinery and sprayers for crop protection.

“VineScout is a completely new approach to agricultural automation for trellising crops, with multiple benefits: it is a stand-alone system that can be used on plots where the GNSS signal cannot be permanently guaranteed, it paves the way towards the use of big data in agriculture, provides critical information on key factors for sustainable agriculture, allows the integration of other sensors to expand its information capacity and, no matter how demanding the environmental conditions, it has proven to be robust and reliable ”, sums up Rovira.

Rights: Creative Commons.

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