Monday, 12 February 2024 15:25

Spraying smarter to grow better

Written by  Tony Skinner

In a competitive and dynamic landscape such as viticulture, the ability to effectively trial, evaluate and embed innovations can provide a distinct advantage.

Pernod Ricard Winemakers, a titan in New Zealand’s wine industry and part of the global Pernod Ricard Group, recognises this. One example is a pivotal partnership with BA Pumps & Sprayers, demonstrated at a recent technology day at a Pernod Ricard vineyard just outside Blenheim.

The two companies have been working together since 2020 to trial the BA Smart Sprayer, which applies the Smart-Apply lidar sensor technology to sense and detect the canopy and assess foliage density, before adjusting each spray nozzle to ensure it only applies pesticides where required. The result is reduced drift, reduced chemical use, and less waste than conventional sprayers. BA Pumps & Sprayers, established in 1989 by Mark Rendle and his siblings, entered the viticulture market about 20 years ago. Their trajectory towards innovation took a significant turn when they started to investigate the use of lidar sensors. Mark vividly remembers the journey: “Back in 2015, when we were experimenting with sonar, we stumbled upon lidar technology. We knew then, the possibilities for reduction in inputs and drift were immense.”

That led to a collaboration with Smart Apply in the United States, integrating advanced lidar technology into their sprayers. Around the same time, Pernod Ricard Winemakers was looking into how to apply pesticides more precisely as part of the company’s long-running programme to reduce environmental impacts. David Allen, Transformation Manager for Viticulture, recalls the initial encounter in 2019: “When BA approached us with the technology, we immediately saw its potential. It was not just about chemical savings, but also about operational simplicity and alignment with our sustainability goals.”

The first in the country to trial the technology, Pernod Ricard Winemakers now operate three sprayers with the Smart- Apply system. With over 2,000 hectares of vineyard in New Zealand, the company stands to make large gains by even relatively small efficiency savings. David explains that the company’s Transformation Team ran comprehensive comparison trials over the past two growing seasons to understand how the Smart Apply system compares to their existing sprayers. “Over the Vintage 2023 season, the field tests using the three-row sprayer showed an impressive +30% reduction in chemical usage compared to conventional sprayers. Other impressive benefits included a reduction in spray drift.” They have ordered three more Smart Apply systems for the vintage 2024 season, he says. “Our testing will continue to monitor the performance of the sprayers throughout their life so we can get a fuller picture of their effectiveness.”

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