Mechanization Key to the Future of Vineyard Management

Gregoire-tractor
With new, specialized offerings from equipment manufacturers, such as Gregoire, there’s been an uptick in opportunities for grape growers to mechanize practices, leading to more economical, efficient, and effective businesses.

Precision technology moves at different speeds across different segments of agriculture. For example, technologies like curve compensation, precision spraying, and subsurface drip irrigation have brought new opportunities for crops like corn and alfalfa, in terms of water use efficiency (WUE) and resource use efficiency (RUE). Other areas experience technology at their own pace.

Grape growing is one area of farming that’s on a slightly different precision path than other crops. In fact, it’s common for much of the work in a vineyard to be done by hand, from early-season pruning to end-of-fall picking.

Jeremy Smith, Vineyard Sales Manager for RDO Equipment Co. in Salinas, CA, says it’s an exciting time for the industry, something he has really noticed since moving to the area nearly three years ago and focusing on the booming vineyard business along the Central Coast region. Thanks to new, specialized offerings from equipment manufacturers, Smith has seen the uptick in opportunities for grape growers to mechanize practices, leading to more economical, efficient, and effective businesses.

Vineyard equipment manufacturers have made great strides in bringing mechanization to the industry. Gregoire was among the first companies to provide a machine for grape harvesting. Since then, picking is the task that has seen the biggest shift from manual to machine; and now, other parts of the vineyard management process are starting to follow suit.

A Complete Vineyard Solution

Specially designed for the unique landscape of vineyards, most brands of grape harvesters are narrow and taller than a typical agriculture tractor. However, their specialized design is also one of the biggest challenges manufacturers have had in integrating grape harvesters into vineyard businesses, according to Smith.

“Harvest, while perhaps the busiest time of year for grape growers, typically lasts about two months,” Smith explained. While a grape harvester is a productive, efficient machine for growers to have, the fact that it sits idle most of the year makes it difficult for many to justify the cost, especially those already hesitant to break away from the conventional method of hand-picking grapes.

This is a valid concern for growers who must weigh the cost/benefit analysis of every equipment purchase, but Smith feels the other side of the coin presents a stronger argument. Quite simply, Smith feels that, “if vineyards aren’t shifting towards mechanizing operations, it could be very expensive for them in the long run.” He believes mechanization is key to the future of vineyard management, not only for smarter, faster, better-timed operation, but because the industry is seeing a sharp decline in laborers to do the work manually.

Recognizing these two primary challenges to the industry – equipment adoption and labor reduction – Gregoire sought to create a unique tractor design with specialized attachments that could perform crucial tasks throughout the year. The goal was to offer a machine that would turn two-month functionality into a full-season opportunity while hitting three of the key needs in the grape-growing cycle: canopy management in the early part of the year, spraying during the spring and summer, and finally, harvest in late summer/early fall.

Grape Harvesting

The center of the company’s line and led by the G9.330, its grape harvesters are offered in a range that includes harvest head attachments, tow-behind, and self-propelled units. The dedicated chassis style on the self-propelled and harvest head-compatible units is unique in its centralized operator cab vs. the cab mounted off to the side, giving growers a better view and position as they navigate over the rows.

The tow-behind grape harvester offers an option for growers with fields on steep slopes where self-propelled harvesters would not be able to operate. It’s also very popular with growers who operate smaller vineyards. Smith says he sees about a 50/50 split of growers who use a self-propelled grape harvester or harvest head vs. pull-behind model.

After the introduction of grape harvesters, the industry’s focus on mechanization continued. With this, grower interest began to expand to areas other than picking, and so did equipment offerings.

Spraying

Gregoire sprayers range from 160- to 530-gallon capacity, and are offered with the option of mounting onto a harvest tractor like the Multiflow Quattro, or a pull-behind model like the Speedflow Progress. These tow-behind units are narrow, designed to maneuver through rows. And similar to the tow-behind harvester, it’s an option for growers who need to operate on hilly, steep-sloped terrain.

Canopy Management

Growers know that early and ongoing pruning, trimming, and overall canopy management are crucial to the season’s yield potential. Not only does the practice optimize potential of the vine and position it for the best utilization of sunlight, it’s a key factor in disease and pest prevention. For a task that’s as important as it is, one might be surprised to learn it’s the one still mostly done by hand.

The company’s canopy management attachments can be placed on the front of a harvester, lending speed, efficiency, and accuracy to this important task. Examples include the Binger EB490P, a leaf remover and the Binger VSL08P, a prepruner.

Still to Come

More than three decades after the launch of the first grape harvesters, Gregoire is continuing to bring mechanization to the vineyard industry. The company has products currently in development, including an advanced cleaning/de-stemming system that Smith says he’s most excited about for growers.

“Cleaning, de-stemming, and sorting are important pieces to the vineyard management puzzle,” he says.

With the design of its harvest tractors to be multi-functional and through a simple swap of various attachments, Gregoire is positioning a harvest tractor in a new way. A machine that would typically work two months of the year can now be in the field for the duration of the season, contributing from the early phases of field preparation all the way through year-end harvest.

To learn more about specialized vineyard solutions from Gregoire, contact RDO Equipment Co. in Salinas, CA.

Leave a Reply

Robotics/Labor Savers Stories
deepfield-robotics-bonirob
Robotics/Labor SaversDeepfield Robotics to Showcase Precision Agriculture Technology at Agrilevante
September 22, 2017
Deepfield Robotics is preparing to showcase its robotics and automation technologies for the agriculture market at the Agrilevante event, in Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversBlue River, Deere Deal Will Accelerate Farm Robot Innovation
September 11, 2017
No, Blue River Co-founder and CEO Jorge Heraud has not been deposed — Gaddafi-style — by big, bad corporate overlord Read More
Corn Field Sunset
DronesArtificial Intelligence Is Changing the Farms of the Future
September 7, 2017
The farming industry is on the cusp of a so-called ‘technological revolution,’ writes Sohini Bagchi on CXOToday.com. With drones, robots Read More
Ed-Barnes-Featured
Robotics/Labor SaversCotton-Picking Robots?
August 28, 2017
Dr. Ed Barnes of Cotton Incorporated is at it again. A recent article posted on GrowingGeorgia.com describes the preliminary work Read More
Trending Articles
Blue River Tech See and Spray prototype in CA
Business ManagementIs the Agtech Startup Boom Over?
November 13, 2017
In the past few months there has been a flurry of acquisitions of agtech startups by major players in the Read More
Spray Drift
Business ManagementProtecting Your Business with Ag Data: What Dicamba Can Teach Us (Guest Column)
November 9, 2017
All over the country, in ag communities large and small, farmers are reporting crop damage, neighbors are fighting, lawsuits and Read More
Kokoda-Trek2
Australia/New ZealandPrecision Agriculture in Papua New Guinea
November 2, 2017
I recently spent two weeks in the Central Highlands area of Papua New Guinea (PNG) on the Kokoda Track. The Read More
Robotic-Field-Scanner
Specialty CropsOpinion: Agriculture’s Big Data is Coming to You
October 20, 2017
If you think your world is changing at a dizzying pace, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. That’s my takeaway from Read More
Brazil-Soybean-field
AmericasIPNI Brazil: Precision Agriculture to Improve Nutrient Use Efficiency
October 16, 2017
As I mentioned in my last article, the IPNI Brazil Symposium on Precision Agriculture was held in early October in Read More
Decision Support SoftwareFarmers Edge, Service Provider Talk High-Frequency Imagery Deal
October 11, 2017
As the domestic ag tech market continues to mature and develop as we barrel into 2018, another intriguing partnership has Read More
Latest News
DronesDrones Play Critical Role in Ohio Agricultural Research
November 17, 2017
The Springfield Beckley-Municipal Airport now has a new hangar for unmanned aircraft and precision agriculture, writes Allyson Brown on GovTech.com. Read More
Iowa-Farmer China
AsiaIowa Farm a Model for Modernizing China Agriculture
November 16, 2017
The buddy seat on Rick Kimberley’s combine-harvester is a fine vantage point from which to observe precision farming. The combine’s Read More
Field
Data ManagementThe Climate Corp., Deveron Form Drone Analytics Partner…
November 16, 2017
The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., has announced a partnership with Deveron UAS Corp., that will deliver farmers Read More
aggateway
Service ProvidersAgGateway Recognizes Leaders at 2017 Annual Conference
November 16, 2017
At its annual conference last week, AgGateway honored individuals and companies that are advancing electronic connectivity efforts in agriculture and Read More
corn field
UncategorizedTopcon Agriculture Prepares to Release Horizon 4.02
November 15, 2017
Topcon Agriculture has announced the addition of new functions including Auto Turn and Steer to Boundary applications in its upcoming Read More
Used Combine
Service ProvidersFinding New Precision Ag Opportunities in Older Equipme…
November 15, 2017
Whether to buy new or used equipment has been and continues to be an important topic for growers. When it Read More
John-Deere-Air-Carts
Systems ManagementJohn Deere 1910 Air Carts Can Now Be Retrofitted with S…
November 14, 2017
Intelligent Agricultural Solutions, LLC (Intelligent Ag), a leader in electronics innovations for modern farming, has released Engage Zone Control, the Read More
Climate FieldView Script Creator
EuropeThe Climate Corp. Expands Global Digital Agriculture Pl…
November 14, 2017
The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., has announced at Agritechnica, the world’s leading trade fair for agricultural machinery, Read More
Soybean-Field-Photo-Barbara-Eckstein
Data ManagementWeather Forecasting: How Does It Work, and How Reliable…
November 14, 2017
Do you ever wonder exactly how the weather forecast is made? And how good are they, really? In last month’s Read More
Topcon_TAP
Decision Support SoftwareTopcon Agriculture Introduces New Connected Agricultura…
November 13, 2017
Topcon Agriculture has introduced TAP, the Topcon Agriculture Platform, a cloud-based agricultural ecosystem designed to provide real-time monitoring and data Read More
Topcon A6
Systems ManagementTopcon Agriculture Adds ISOBUS Communication to Opus Co…
November 13, 2017
Topcon Agriculture has added industry-leading ISOBUS universal terminal and task controller functionality to the Opus A6 and A8 consoles. The Read More
Blue River Tech See and Spray prototype in CA
Business ManagementIs the Agtech Startup Boom Over?
November 13, 2017
In the past few months there has been a flurry of acquisitions of agtech startups by major players in the Read More
Data ManagementAgGateway Grain Transfer Proof of Concept Shows Promise
November 10, 2017
We talk about closed-loop systems quite a bit in modern production agriculture. Having a closed-loop, or completely self-contained, system is Read More
Spray Drift
Business ManagementProtecting Your Business with Ag Data: What Dicamba Can…
November 9, 2017
All over the country, in ag communities large and small, farmers are reporting crop damage, neighbors are fighting, lawsuits and Read More
Farmers Business Network, FBN Procurement
Industry NewsFarmers Business Network Details Updated FBN Direct Sho…
November 8, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network, Inc. is modernizing the way farmers shop with a new e-commerce platform designed and engineered exclusively for Read More
Excellence AwardsNominations Open For 2018 PrecisionAg Awards Of Excelle…
November 8, 2017
The PrecisionAg Award of Excellence program sheds light on some of the most important people and programs that have helped agriculture realize the full benefits of technology to improve agronomy, efficiency, and stewardship in crop production. Read More
Data ManagementDJI Announces FlightHub Drone Operations Management Pla…
November 7, 2017
DJI showcased new hardware and software advancements that make it easier for businesses across multiple industries to incorporate drones into Read More
Deere-Combine
Data ManagementTech’s Perspective: Closeout to #Harvest2017
November 7, 2017
As the harvest season comes to a close, a quick look at Twitter gives us some insights into how things Read More