Planting a winery requires extra than simply planting vines. There are additionally vine stakes and trellis posts for planting, plus drip strains and wires for working.
Portugal-based Vinomatos guarantees to do it multi functional go with GPS-driven precision: Enter its planting machine, the Révolution.
“The distinction is that as an alternative of getting the planting workforce adopted by the trellis workforce adopted by irrigation, we do it in a single go,” mentioned Leandro Tomás, who heads the corporate’s planting providers within the US. “There aren’t any marks forward. We carry our personal gear and we do every part.”
The corporate planted Washington State College’s latest analysis winery (4 acres to accommodate soil well being research) in early June and invited business members to see the mechanical seeder in motion. Driving behind the tractor driver, two crew members carried vines and stakes whereas a 3rd carried poles. Further crew members adopted to verify every part ran easily and to reload vines and provides as wanted.
Vinomatos Managing Associate Georges Mandrafina was readily available to debate the corporate’s evolution from the primary GPS-enabled planting machines within the Nineteen Nineties to the Révolution launched in 2020.
“It is an important innovation,” he mentioned of the machine’s means to deal with completely different stakes and two various kinds of poles on the identical time, at two completely different depths. The most recent iteration can even appropriate slopes on hills, Mandrafina mentioned.
Vinomatos launched its contract planting providers within the US in 2019, and after pandemic-related journey restrictions imposed a brief hitch, it now has 4 machines within the US. The corporate brings them to Washington after the California planting season, he mentioned.
Tomás mentioned that with a crew of 5, every machine can plant between 5,000 and eight,000 vegetation per day, relying on website format and terrain challenges. Every vine is mapped to inside 1 centimeter of error, because of Actual-Time Kinematics (RTK) know-how that will increase GPS accuracy. The tractor carries a water tank to water the vines throughout planting, and the drip strains merely have to be related.
Tomás mentioned the corporate costs a charge per plant, however declined to share particulars, because the charge is dependent upon the size of the mission and challenges such because the complexity of the terrain and trellis.
It is a compelling know-how, however growers trying to save labor by outsourcing their farm should be ready for the setbacks that include adopting any new know-how, mentioned Brittany Komm, supervisor of winery operations at Sagemoor Vineyards.
After being impressed by a trial in 2022, Sagemoor contracted Vinomatos to plant almost 50 acres this spring at three completely different websites within the Walla Walla and Columbia Basin, some with tough terrain and rocky soils. As they scaled up, they encountered extra challenges, resulting in planting in less-than-optimal climate situations.
“General, I believe this machine has nice capabilities, but it surely by no means absolutely made it to the vegetation the day they informed me it might,” primarily based on the 2022 take a look at, he mentioned.
She factors out a few of the challenges of the training experiences for her workforce, reminiscent of tips on how to design and simplify the trellis system to work extra effectively with the machine. Others, just like the wait time for a specialty mechanic or components, replicate that maybe Vinomatos is working out of customer support because it expands into Washington.
The basalt rock layers additionally posed some issues.
“At Southwind (in Walla Walla) there’s a whole lot of rock, and once you’re making an attempt to drive 2-3 ft of a pole into the rock, it would not bode nicely for the pole or the machine,” he mentioned. “Growers might want to know their terrain and the restrictions of the machine.”
Profitable use of the labor-saving machine could require extra website preparation than Washington growers usually do, WSU extension specialist Michelle Moyer mentioned through the demonstration. For instance, exact placement of machine stakes could require extra full ripping in rocky soil, whereas hand planting crews at such websites could select to maneuver a vine or submit just a few inches to work round a rock. .
Chris Banek, proprietor of Banek Winegrower Administration, has labored with Vinomatos for the previous two seasons and mentioned the location preparation resembles his handbook preparation for planting.
“We’ll farm simply earlier than they go to seed, as you do not need weeds or particles” in the way in which, he mentioned.
Vinomatos first cuts the rows of vines down to three ft to open area for posts, Tomás mentioned. That is the primary go, made with a unique tractor, and it “ensures the posts are on the identical depth” and safely removes stones earlier than the crew follows the planter.
Tearing, quite than digging holes, additionally reduces compaction and makes it simpler for roots to start out rising, Tomás mentioned.
As for the websites, Banek mentioned he noticed the machine work nicely on the cobblestone ground of the Rocks District in Milton-Freewater, Oregon. Nonetheless, the damaged basalt layers on the Southwind website talked about by Komm required altering the sides of the blocks, he mentioned.
Banek mentioned hiring Vinomatos permits him to develop extra acres for shoppers within the spring whereas his workforce is busy managing present vineyards.
“I haven’t got the sources, that’s, the crews, on the time of planting as a result of we now have to pay attention 100% on the crop,” he mentioned.
He’s planning one other mission with Vinomatos subsequent 12 months and has suggested different growers who need to do the identical to simplify their trellis system and sustain with the variety of vegetation per day. Vineyards with lengthy runs, good layouts, and good soil are key, as is having a plan to get every part organized and prepared.
“It does 6,000 vegetation a day, with poles, pipes, wires and a couple of quarts of water, and also you’re performed,” he mentioned. “And he is straight as hell.”
—by Kate Prengaman