New technology

 

7 robots that will change your business

Labour shortages and the desire to be more sustainable are driving interest in robots. What’s the latest from this fascinating, fast-moving world?

 

The innovative wine-pouring arm RobinoVino has been dispensing up to four different wines at a time at the Maria Concetto Winery Tasting Salon in Napa Valley, California, for four months

7 robots that will change your business
  • Chris Boiling
  • 2024-02-27

1 RobinoVino

RobinoVino 3The innovative wine-pouring arm RobinoVino dispenses up to four different wines during tastings at the Maria Concetto Winery in Napa Valley, California. It’s been operating there for four months — without breaking any glasses.
The business says RobinoVino enhances the wine-tasting experience, supports the tasting salon’s sommeliers and entertains guests with its capabilities. “It adds an element of fun and whimsy,” says the company.
The $75 tasting of four different varietal wines with the robotic pouring arm, which is controlled remotely by a member of staff, costs 15 to 20% more than standard tastings. At the end of the session, the arm jokingly presents a tip jar.
The robotic device was conceived and designed by winery owner Maria Reznikova and her team and manufactured in China. She is now offering it to other tasting rooms for about $50,000, including installation with training.
Maria explains its appeal at her three-year-old tasting salon: “Social media-savvy younger folks want something they can share online — a robot pouring wine is definitely Instagrammable.”
Updates are likely to include an AI speaking program that will suggest food pairings and an option that gives guests the ability to control the robotic arm themselves via a tablet.

See the robotic arm dancing


2 OXIN

Oxin
The fully autonomous, multi-tasking robotic vineyard tractor OXIN, from New Zealand producer Smart Machine, is undergoing trials at Duxton Vineyards’ expansive Euston vineyard in New South Wales, Australia. And Wine Australia is monitoring the machine to see how it performs tasks such as mowing, mulching, trimming, weeding and spraying under Australian conditions.
Duxton Vineyards’ GM Wayne Ellis says: “By being the first local wine producer to trial the OXIN by Smart Machine, we are continuing our sustainability journey and doing our part to evolve farming and viticulture practices in Australia.”

See OXIN in action



3 ICARO X4

Icaro
New to vineyards in Italy is the ICARO X4 (above), a hybrid robot for treating vineyards and orchards with UV-C rays. Developed by Free Green Nature engineers and manufactured by Maschio Gaspardo, ICARO X4 contains 16 patents, each with its own specific function.
The key element of the robot is its large, foldable UV-C emitting panels. Applying UV-C rays of a specific wavelength to the plant triggers a biological mechanism that stimulates the plant’s immune defences. The UV-C rays also break down the DNA of pathogens such as powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis, preventing them from developing on the plant.
As well as drastically reducing the use of chemicals in viticulture, this robot also reduces CO2 emissions, thanks to an engine with an integrated hybrid system. Finally, to make the robot completely autonomous at work, Free Green Nature has developed a RTK system, a telemetry system accessible from a smartphone, security cameras equipped with artificial intelligence and a weather analysis station.
This station, called Commandant ICARUS X4, analyses data on wind, temperature, humidity, dew point and rainfall to detect the optimum stage in the development of pathogens. Each time an alert is triggered, the Commandant will emit a radio signal to activate the ICARO X4, so it will survey the various rows of vines and orchards and apply UV-C rays when the micro-organisms have conditions favourable to their multiplication.
By adjusting the intensity of the UV-C sprayed on the leaves, the ICARO X4 can adapt to the different stages of vegetation and maintain maximum effectiveness. Its autonomy means it can be used on vines and orchards at any time of day, whatever the season.
Cost is about the same as a medium-size tractor, according to the Italian developer.


4 Automated pruning and harvesting machine

English sparkling wine producer Saffron Grange, which has a 12ha site near the market town of Saffron Walden in Essex, is testing robots for harvesting and pruning functions in a three-year research project with Queen Mary University of London and Extend Robotics, with funding from the UK government and Innovate UK.
Called ‘Integrated Human-Augmented Robotics and Intelligent Sensing Platform for Precision Viticulture’, the research project will see the technology firm and university researchers developing AI-based solutions for the automation of tasks such as pruning and harvesting.
The aim of the research is to “significantly improve the productivity and sustainability of the UK viticulture industry while also providing a competitive edge in the global market”, said founder and CEO of Extend Robotics, Dr Chang Liu.
Alongside Extend Robotics’ virtual reality-based teleoperation systems, scientists from Queen Mary’s will add their expertise in remote sensing and image spectral analysis.
Dr Ketao Zhang, senior lecturer in robotics at Queen Mary, said: “Our technology will allow growers to remotely monitor crop health, identify potential issues early on, and take appropriate action, resulting in better overall crop quality and higher yields. The precision manipulation and perception system with a virtual reality interface will enable growers to perform tasks such as pruning and harvesting more efficiently and accurately, reducing labour costs, emissions, and reliance on seasonal migration. The cloud-connected AI components will help to automate general tasks to improve efficiency.”


5 Slopehelper

Robot - Slopehelper
Friulano estate Ca’ Bolani has been testing the autonomous and electric Slopehelper robot from neighbouring Slovenia.
Slopehelper was developed by electric vehicle manufacturer PeK Automotive, part of Peker Holding. Mounted on caterpillar tracks and run entirely on electricity, it can operate for eight to 14 hours at a time over a range of terrains and in a range of weather conditions. As the name suggests, it is well-suited to slopes up to 42°.
Since we saw Slopehelper in action here, Pek Automotive has introduced the smaller Agilehelper system, a 3-in-1 tool designed for small vineyards and dedicated to soil preparation.


6 Trektor by SITIA

Trektor
What sets the autonomous Trektor by SITIA apart is its hybrid nature. The straddle and inter-row tractor runs on electric power but has an on-board diesel generator that enables it to recharge its batteries in the field while continuing to work.
Its hybrid function reduces diesel consumption by up to 60% compared with a conventional tractor performing the same tasks. Another advantage of this machine is that its Cat II rear 3-point hitch and an inter-wheel hitch can carry existing hydraulic, mechanical or electric implements.


7 TRAXX Concept H2

Traxx
This autonomous single-row self-propelled straddle tractor, TRAXX Concept H2 from EXXACT Robotics, runs on hydrogen. This offers growers a zero-emission fuel alternative to petrol and diesel – an option that is especially attractive as the wine industry moves toward adopting green solutions. Additionally, hydrogen makes for a lighter, quieter machine that works efficiently and refuels quickly.
“Before we began developing TRAXX Concept H2, we did a lifecycle assessment between electrical batteries and hydrogen,” says Camille Enderlen, product owner for TRAXX Concept H2, noting that EXXACT Robotics was trying to determine which solution would perform best. “The emissions impacts were very similar. So, we opted to develop the hydrogen concept.”

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