Llanerch hotel in South Wales offers luxury accommodation, set on a 2 hectare working vineyard. Director Ryan Davies established the current business in 2010 and has been modernising the vineyard ever since. The vineyard grows six different grape varieties from phoenix to triomphe d’Alsace.
The goal of vineyard management is to produce the very best quality grapes, optimising yield and minimising losses due to pests and diseases. Precision viticulture techniques are increasingly used in established wine producing countries like Australia and New Zealand to meet these goals. The goal of this vineyard pilot study is to demonstrate new technologies from Portuguese developers XpectralTEK and to understand the best ways to deploy them in the UK.
Precision viticulture technologies
Satellite images can give a fascinating snapshot of the distribution of vegetative crops. Multispectral images from the European Space Agency Sentinel-2 satellite were used by Corbeau to create the vegetation index map of Llanerch Vineyard in South Wales shown above. The red areas overlaid on buildings have no vegetation, the yellow areas correspond to roads and the green fields show more or less plant leaf growth.
Within the vineyard, in the centre of the picture, vertical bands of darker green can be seen which correspond to more vigorous vines. Such images are useful because they provide a semi-quantitative measurement of vine vigour but they don’t have the resolution to pick out poor individual vines that may be diseased or smaller areas of vines that may be malnourished. The other shortcoming in Sentinel-2 data is that the pair of satellites return to the same spot on the earth (or tile) every 10 days. At best, new vineyard images can be recorded every 5 days. In practice the interval is longer due to cloud cover. Unlike a farmer, a satellite also knows nothing of local frost pockets or wind chill risks.
Corbeau Innovation has partnered with XpectralTEK to bring a new complementary precision viticulture platform to the UK. Addressing the gaps in the information provided by remote sensing, the new platform comprises the SensIT environmental sensor, the BACO vine leaf imager and an artificial intelligence user interface. Miguel Rodrigues, agronomist at XpectralTEK discussed the platform in a recent blog post.
April 2021 arrival
A XpectralTEK BACO leaf imager and SensIT monitor arrived at Corbeau Innovation in April, successfully negotiating new Customs controls and a global pandemic! We immediately set to work deploying SensIT in the garden and hooking up BACO to the house wifi.
SensIT is solar powered with a rechargeable battery that has sufficient capacity to last days, powering sensor upload to the Cloud in complete darkness. Very useful in Wales. Actually Wales is blessed with long hours of daylight in spring, summer and autumn, when the vines are growing. Initial experience shows that the battery remains at a high level through typical spring weather of rain, brilliant sun, hail and snow.