In France’s Bordeaux region, robots ensure that the wine is organically good. They autonomously eliminate grass and weeds between the vines, making pesticides unnecessary. To enable the robots to navigate the hilly terrain, the developers took some cues from Mars rovers.
The wine region around Saint-Emilion in France is world famous and steeped in tradition. Winemaking here goes back to the Roman age. However, the Romans could only dream of the agricultural tools available today: These days, robots help with the laborious care of the vines. The Vitirover, developed by the eponymous company in Saint-Emilion, is one of these robots. It is a fully autonomous lawnmower powered by solar energy. About twenty of these robotic mowers are in use in the vineyards. This year, Vitirover will deliver 200 more robots, for example for use along railway tracks or in photovoltaics plants. The main benefit of the robot is that it is environmentally friendly and helps to make organic wine. The use of the robot in the vineyards makes pesticides like glyphosate unnecessary. In addition, the robot protects the soil by avoiding the compaction that may be caused by tractors or horses.
Close collaboration with ESA
The development of the robot, which is able to mow more than two hectares of land, wasn’t an easy task. As it turned out, the unstable soil in the vineyards is quite similar to the surface of Mars. This is why, when drafting the first design specifications, Vitirover collaborated with the European Space Agency (ESA) to review the designs of all of the robots that were developed for Mars missions. “This really helped us, because we couldn’t find any terrestrial robots that came as close to our specifications,” says Xavier David Beaulieu, CTO at Vitirover. He started the company in 2010, together with Arnaud de la Fouchardière. After taking over the family business, the Château Coutet winery in Saint-Emilion, he faced the challenge of controlling the growth of grass and weeds between the vines. Today, Vitirover is a globally leading innovator in high-precision winery applications. The company has ten employees.