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
Auto-Thinner
Robotics/Labor SaversPrecision Agriculture in Specialty Crops: Labor, Cost Savings are Key
October 9, 2018
Agriculture is going through an equivalent of what the computer industry went through in the 1970s and 1980s. That’s when Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversWill We Pay Robots by the Hour? [Opinion]
August 28, 2018
I’ve attended a fair number of grower seminars around the country on the potential new technology headed for the farm, Read More
Shake-and-Catch-Harvesting-Platform
Robotics/Labor SaversWhat’s the Future of Orchard Robotics in Pennsylvania?
August 28, 2018
During the past several decades, agriculture, in general, has made advancements as a result of automation and precision management technologies. However, Read More
Driscolls-Strawberries-Greenhouse
Robotics/Labor SaversHow Technology Will Influence Farms of the Future, Change Way Crops are Produced
August 24, 2018
From the invention of hoes, scythes and ploughs to the introduction of tractors, innovation is at the heart of agriculture, Read More
Trending Articles
Mike-Gomes
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Mike Gomes, Topcon
October 15, 2018
Mike Gomes of Topcon Precision Agriculture joins Paul Schrimpf, Group Editor of PrecisionAg Professional magazine, for a discussion of key Read More
PrecisionAg InstitutePrecisionAg Institute Whitepaper Library
October 1, 2018
Welcome to the PrecisionAg Institute Whitepaper library! Here you will find free whitepapers and case studies from the PrecisionAg Institute Partners Read More
Sensors
Sensors/IoTThe Answer to Agriculture’s Daunting Challenges – Soil Sensors
September 20, 2018
According to the United Nations, 9.6 billion people will live on planet Earth by 2050. Feeding these mouths will require Read More
Soil-Hand
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Grower-Retailer
Imagery/SensingAgtech: 10 Things I Hate About You!
September 4, 2018
Before you get bent out of shape from the title, remember if you’ve read my articles before you know I Read More
Kansas State University
Industry NewsKansas State University, Topcon Form Precision Ag Research Partnership
August 30, 2018
Kansas State University and Topcon Agriculture are collaborating to develop tools and systems to advance precision agriculture and support farmers. Read More
Latest News
Pix4Dfields_usecase_prunes_farm
DronesEnhance Your Agriculture Workflow in Less Than 30 Minut…
October 15, 2018
Prunes are European plums with a high sugar content that allows them to dry without fermenting around the pit and Read More
Winfield
PrecisionAg InstitutePartner Profile with Winfield United
October 15, 2018
Joel Wipperfurth of Winfield United discusses ag technology trends and topics during the 2018 InfoAg Conference. Read More
Fetters
PrecisionAg InstitutePartner Profile with Simplot Grower Solutions
October 15, 2018
Allan Fetters of Simplot Grower Solutions discusses ag technology trends and topics across the industry, and within the company, during Read More
Chappell
PrecisionAg InstituteEncouraging Employees to Think Into the Future is Winni…
October 15, 2018
EFC Systems CEO Ernie Chappell says his company is always looking ahead to understand growers’ future needs. “It’s not just Read More
Raven-SDSU
PrecisionAg InstitutePartnership with SDSU is One Way Raven Industries Advan…
October 15, 2018
Raven Industries’ partnership with South Dakota State University allows the company to work closely with students and staff to advance Read More
Proagrica
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Kirk Appleford, Proagrica
October 15, 2018
Kirk Appleford joins Paul Schrimpf at the 2018 InfoAg Conference to talk about current ag trends, and Proagrica’s recent acquisition Read More
ESRI
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Charlie Magruder, ESRI
October 15, 2018
Charlie Magruder joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of current trends in technology that are impacting ESRI, including news from Read More
Shane-Swedlund
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Shane Swedlund, Raven Industries
October 15, 2018
Shane Swedlund of Raven Industries joins Paul Schrimpf at the 2018 InfoAg Conference to share some key learnings from the Read More
Mike-Gomes
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Mike Gomes, Topcon
October 15, 2018
Mike Gomes of Topcon Precision Agriculture joins Paul Schrimpf, Group Editor of PrecisionAg Professional magazine, for a discussion of key Read More
Ernie-Chappell-and-Paul
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Ernie Chappell, EFC Systems
October 15, 2018
Ernie Chappell of EFC Systems joins Paul Schrimpf, Group Editor of PrecisionAg Professional magazine, to talk about topics and trends Read More
Auto-Thinner
Robotics/Labor SaversPrecision Agriculture in Specialty Crops: Labor, Cost S…
October 9, 2018
Agriculture is going through an equivalent of what the computer industry went through in the 1970s and 1980s. That’s when Read More
Growing-Innovations-logo
EventsA Crazy 2018 is Why We Need Growing Innovations
October 8, 2018
If you’re here you likely have received a special Meister Media Worldwide code to get $100 off your registration to Read More
AmericasConBAP 2018 Highlights Precision Agriculture in Brazil
October 8, 2018
The Brazilian Congress of Precision Agriculture 2018 (ConBAP 2018) was held October 2-4 in Curitiba, Paraná. Held every two years, Read More
GAR-Tootelian-Sensor
Service ProvidersGar Tootelian: Putting Ag Technology to the Test
October 8, 2018
In California’s Central Valley, a diverse crop market in which Pest Control Advisors (PCAs) are the dominant players when it Read More
Spray Drift
Decision Support SoftwareHow Technology Can Help You Prevent Spray Drift
October 8, 2018
Spray drift. News articles about damage caused by spray drift seem to pop up regularly, almost as daily reminders, during Read More
UncategorizedTopcon, Kansas State Make it Official: Establish Resear…
October 4, 2018
Today, Topcon Agriculture and Kansas State University announced a comprehensive partnership, according to a news release issued by the University. Read More
AmericasIvy Tech Students, Helena Collaborate on ‘The Fie…
October 4, 2018
Students in Ivy Tech Community College’s Agriculture and Precision Agriculture programs have had an interesting opportunity this growing season to Read More
Industry NewsSDSU to Host Precision Ag Bowl, Raven Facility Grand Op…
October 3, 2018
South Dakota State is the first university in the nation to offer a four-year degree in precision agriculture. This Saturday, Read More