Willamette Valley Vineyards deploys Saga Robotics UV light system

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Agri-tech manufacturer Saga Robotics has provided its autonomous UV-C light robot to Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon, U.S to combat powdery mildew in its vineyards.

As part of a project, with Cornell University and USDA scientists at Oregon State University, the autonomous robot will be trialled applying a special band of ultraviolet light treatment to the vines.

Willamette will be the first farmer to test this solution to prevent powdery mildew from damaging its wine grapes. The system will replace the use of organic sulphur with sustainable UV-C light.

The UV-C light treatment must be delivered in high doses at low speeds and at night to circumvent the natural defences of powdery mildews to UV. The project said the low speeds and night-time operation make human-controlled tractor applications inefficient and costly. Saga Robotics developed an electric powered robot for chemical-free, autonomous protection of grapevines.

Willamette Valley Vineyards CEO Jim Bernau, said: “The pandemic and the need to kill the coronavirus led us to study UV-C light.

“We learned it can be used to kill viruses and other things like powdery mildew — naturally, without the use of chemicals. We see this as a remarkable opportunity for our industry to grow high quality wine grapes and do it in a very natural, sustainable way.”

The team at Willamette Valley Vineyards and Oregon State University assembled the latest model of the Thorvald robot, shipped from Norway by Saga Robotics to run in Willamette Valley Vineyards’ estate vineyards.

Last year, two prototypes of the grape robot were deployed at vineyards near Cornell University in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

According to the project, this new UV-C light technology could greatly reduce global agricultural use of fungicides if farmers adopt this technology.

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