Automation of the vineyard and work challenges

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Automation of the vineyard and work challenges

Tim hammerich
Journalist

With California Ag Today, I’m Tim Hammerich.

Winegrowers have used mechanical grape harvesters for decades, but in recent years they have also adopted equipment for other wine operations like thinning and pruning. UC Cooperative Extension winemaker Kaan Kurtural says it helps growers tackle labor costs and labor availability.

Kurtural… “Right now we’re doing three shifts. In each shift you need two to three people to operate the machines in the vineyard.

Kurtural says this is a dramatic reduction in the number of employees compared to the days when everything was done manually. But it also increases the demand for employees trained in viticulture and related technologies.

Kurtural… “To operate per acre, you are about three people, compared to 32 or 33 in the past. But the people they tend to hire now are mostly university graduates. Winegrowers or management assistants type who can take information, interpret it, then apply it very quickly to the changing conditions of the vineyard. So we need a little better trained staff to run these machines, but it’s been kind of disruptive technology to the way we operate in California when it comes to grapes.

Kurtural and his colleagues published a review of best management practices in the journal Catalyst.


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