De­tec­tor drones to help grape grow­ers

Tasmanian Country - - OPINION -

VIGNERONS in Aus­tralia could have ac­cess to dronepow­ered tech­nol­ogy to de­tect smoke taint in grapes this bush­fire sea­son.

Pre­lim­i­nary mod­els will be pre­sented at a con­fer­ence in Ar­gentina at the end of the month be­fore be­ing tri­alled in South Aus­tralia in De­cem­ber and Jan­uary.

De­vel­op­ers of the mod­els are hop­ing to have some­thing avail­able for use in vine­yards by March.

“The model will recog­nise and map which parts have been con­tam­i­nated and which parts have not,” Univer­sity of Mel­bourne re­searcher Sigfredo Fuentes said.

Smoke taint can be a se­ri­ous is­sue for grape grow­ers as it af­fects the qual­ity of wine, of­ten forc­ing it to be dis­carded.

Dr Fuentes said he de­vel­oped the al­go­rithms that can in­ter­pret in­for­ma­tion col­lected by sen­sors mounted on drone be­cause there was noth­ing like it avail­able.

He said the model would help grow­ers sep­a­rate out parcels of grapes that might be more af­fected by smoke than oth­ers.

“The pro­gram as­sesses pixel by pixel and trans­forms the data you ob­tain into a mean­ing­ful pa­ram­e­ter, for ex­am­ple, con­tam­i­na­tion or no con­tam­i­na­tion, or low, medium and high con­tam­i­na­tion,” he said.

Dr Fuentes said all the field work for the project had so far been done in China be­cause of lower costs but tri­als would e con­ducted in part­ner­ship with the Univer­sity of Ade­laide to test pre­ci­sion in lo­cal con­di­tions.

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