Sunday, 11 February 2024 16:25

Strong as an Oxin

Written by  Tony Skinner

Marlborough-based startup SmartMachine has established a firm footprint in the future of vitculture, with the pioneering Oxin uncrewed ground vehicle.

Pernod Ricard Winemakers is so convinced by the technology that it’s procured 19 machines for use in Marlborough and in Hawke’s Bay, with recent field days in both provinces. In the lead up to the Hawke’s Bay event, Pernod Ricard Winemakers Viticulture Transformation Manager David Allen said the company had seen first-hand how autonomous vineyard tractor (AVT) technology could “revolutionise” the industry.

Andrew Kersley, Chief Executive of SmartMachine, calls Oxin the company’s “flagship” product, and “the world’s first multitasking ATV or robot”. Oxin is designed to transform vineyard operations, offering solutions to various challenges and labour shortages. It can mow, mulch, trim and spray in one pass, with a single operator able to monitor multiple machines remotely, Andrew says. “From the outset, we tried to figure out what the value proposition looked like that made sense for autonomy in this space. One of the big drivers was the multi-tasking; being able to do combinations of activities that you can’t necessarily do on a tractor. It’s about how do we reduce the fleet size and machinery in these spaces, and then ultimately reduce the resource required to operationally run fleets of these machines?”

The Oxin unit boasts various sensors and data capabilities, enabling growers to review real-time data for informed vineyard management. “You’re building up a map of the space, defining drive inputs, and defining canopy position so that you can place heads in precise and accurate places,” Andrew says. This approach not only increases productivity but also aligns with sustainable farming methods.

SmartMachine’s vision extends beyond New Zealand, with plans to establish a market position in Australia and strategise for a launch in the United States, he adds. “We are building a fully electric version of our machine, which will shift the dial even further regarding the sustainability benefits of this technology.”

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