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Robot Pruner May Cut Vineyard Labor Costs


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red wine grapes

Credit: iStockPhoto.com

Vino Farms is one of several farms in California that have invested in the development of a new machine that uses vision systems to mechanically prune vine spurs. The machine, produced by Vision Robotics, has already been used to harvest citrus fruits and apples. "We were approached five years ago by these industries who saw the writing on the wall in terms of the availability of labor," says Vision Robotics CEO Derek Morikawa.

The new technology uses two cameras, which gives the robot three-dimensional vision, allowing it to look ahead to see the spurs further down the vine. The visual information is used to control two pruning heads which cut the spurs according to specifications that can be altered by the user. "Instead of a mechanical hedging, we're talking about understanding the structure of the vine and pruning intelligently," says Morikawa.

Normally, hand pruning costs Vino Farms between 32 cents and 38 cents per vine—but in areas where they have used the robotic pruning system, the cost has dropped to about 14 cents per vine, says Vino Farms' Craig Ledbetter.

From Daily Democrat
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