Robotic solutions for sustainable soil management in slope vineyards

Robots are machines supported by artificial intelligence and expert systems, incorporating Global Positioning System (GPS) and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) auto-guidance systems.

At present, robots find applications across diverse sectors, including various agricultural technologies. In the realm of chemical-free weed control, mechanical weeding approaches emerge as promising alternatives. These methods not only safeguard soil health and overall biodiversity but also contribute to maintaining farming profitability.

The design and development of robotic solutions must encompass adaptability to diverse agricultural environments, such as mountain vineyards situated on steep slopes, exemplified by the Douro wine region in Portugal. NOVATERRA’s robotic solution, featuring cost-effective robots with end-effector, is built upon the Modular-E platform. Two robotics tools were developed under the name of Mowit:  Mowit-V1 and Mowit-V2 can control weed growth between (inter-row) and within (intra-row) grapevine rows, using only electrical energy. The solution Modular-E and Mowit-V2 can work non-stop for up to 8 hours, without recharge. During this year, between the end of March and the end of June, mechanical weed control was trialled on four dates: 30th March, 19th April5th May and 21st June 2023. It was found, that the main challenge in mechanical weed control lies in the intra-row area, where accurate guidance systems are crucial to avoid trunk/crop damage.

The newfound knowledge and advancements in robot systems, including image processing methods/algorithms and software, will be leveraged to develop a modular, cost-effective robot for mechanical weed removal. This robot will be designed to operate on steep slopes and align with emerging sustainable agronomic approaches.