It seems that robots are becoming more important in our daily lives, doing everything from reminding us of our appointments to vacuuming our carpets.
Now, though, robots are helping us in another way: by assisting vineyard owners manage their wine production tasks.
This robot, aptly called the VineRobot, comes with a set of sensors that allows it to measure important qualities in grapevines, such as vine development, water levels, production and composition of the grapes themselves. After collecting its data, it wirelessly sends it to the vineyard owner for further analysis.
Growing grapes for wine is a complicated process: conditions necessary for a good bottle of wine means that the vineyards focus on making everything perfect: from how much water vines get to levels of sunlight vineyards receive to picking grapes from their vines at just the right moment that they'll make a good glass of vino.
Having a robot precisely measuring everything about the vines and the grapes makes the process easier for those responsible for vineyards.
"Robots like the one we are developing within this project will not substitute the vine grower, but will facilitate their work, so they can avoid the hardest part in field," says Javier Tardaguila, researcher at the University of La Rioja, and Francisco Rovira, researcher at the Agricultural Robotics Laboratory of the UPV. "It has several advantages including the ability to predict grape production or its degree of ripeness in order to immediately assess its quality without touching it."
This could result in guaranteeing a better harvest every time, which means better bottles of wine. And good wine is something we can all get behind, right?
However, this robot's use goes well beyond the vineyard. Any farm could benefit from having access to the useful data the VineRobot gathers, especially with fewer young people taking up agriculture as a career.
The research team has built the first prototype of its robot, focusing on its mobility and movement through vineyards, as well as working on the sensors it needs. The researchers hope to use most of 2015 in working on getting the robot to drive safely through vineyards while using its sensors.
"Robotics and precision agriculture provide producers with powerful tools in order to improve the competitiveness of their farms," says Tardaguila and Rovira.
Perhaps VineRobot can work in tandem with Wall-Ye V.I.N., another robot recently invented that delicately prunes grapevine branches.