Cropsy set out to bust ‘ghost vines’

by | Jan 18, 2023 | News

New Zealand company Cropsy Technologies has been awarded a $534k project grant through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI’s) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund and a $200k AGMARDT Agribusiness Innovation grant to lead a project titled ‘You know I can’t harvest your Ghost Vines: Vineyard-scale monitoring of unproductive vines’.

“The project will develop tools to help growers understand the health and productivity of every vine in their vineyards in order to identify missing, dead, dying or otherwise unproductive grapevines,” says Cropsy’s Head of Product & Innovation Dr Gareth Hill.

“These vines receive all the labour, water, and other vineyard inputs that other vines do without contributing to the overall productivity of the vineyard. For all intents and purposes these vines are either missing or may as well be, which is why we call them ‘Ghost Vines’.

“There are over 40,000 hectares of New Zealand vineyards with many tens-of-millions of vines, so ghost vines pose a hidden threat to the sustainability of the industry, both environmentally through inefficient land use and financially through lost production and avoidable vineyard expansion. Monitoring the health and productivity of this number of vines reliably and scalably right now is simply impossible.”

Cropsy’s current vision system can measure the current state of grapevines. By also measuring and analysing the state of every vine and its neighbours over time, the Ghost Vines project will enable the diagnosis of declining productivity and disease at the earliest possible stage.

“We are building up a ‘patient history’ of all the vines in a vineyard,” explains Dr Hill. “By putting each vine’s performance into context we’ll be able to make more accurate forecasts about its productivity and the future of the vineyard as a whole.”

The two-year project is a collaboration with prominent wine companies Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Indevin Group, and Cloudy Bay Vineyards, and viticultural consultancy Fantail Consulting.

Pernod Ricard Winemakers believes the collaboration offers benefits for the whole industry. “Improving the utilisation of resources such as land and water is something that would benefit the entire industry” said David Allen, Viticulture Transformation Manager.

“We are a proud industry partner,” says Indevin’s Group Technical Viticulturist Rhys Hall. “We believe the project will push the boundaries of agritech in New Zealand vineyards.”

Cloudy Bay is also delighted to be part of the project. “It has the potential to provide us with the tools we need for decision making regarding long-term productivity and re-development,” says Cloudy Bay viticulturist John Flanagan.

MPI’s Director of Investment Programmes Steve Penno says this innovation is unprecedented in New Zealand vineyards. “The technology-based and data-driven services developed through this project will enable the wine industry to manage their vineyards in a way that’s not currently possible, and has the potential to lift productivity significantly – that’s a very exciting prospect.”

As new tools are developed within the project, they will be released to the wine industry as expansions to Cropsy Technologies’ existing vineyard insights platform.

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