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Why Smart Machine Makes Robot Vineyard Vehicles – NZ Entrepreneur Magazine


The role of winery management requires a boom in the wine industry and humans, so the three inventors created robotic vehicles for labor-intensive work in the vineyards. All vehicles are manufactured in New Zealand. Mike Botur explains.

Smart machine Currently, we have only one product and four copies, but there is strong demand from our major clients and we are moving the company forward. Once the development phase is complete, a Smart Machine robot vehicle called “Oxins” can perform mulching, herbicide application, mowing, canopy trimming and application, and leaf fall 24 hours a day.

The vehicle is multitasking and can control multiple machines with a single operator. With this, Smart Machine states that it greatly increases the chances of working in a row. These machines also facilitate data collection and enable AI models to assist in decision-making processes that streamline aspects such as yield estimation and identification of grape diseases.

Each Oxin weighs 4.5 tonnes, but the idea is that the machine distributes weight through caterpillar trucks, so it has less impact on the soil than human workers. The Oxins are powered by a 100hp diesel Cummins engine, which is powered by a combination of hydraulic and electric actuators.

More than half of the current strong team of 12 people behind Oxin is shifting to Marlboro, the center of New Zealand’s wine industry. Andrew Kersley, CEO of SmartMachine, speaks from Blenheim, with five NZ wineries and brands in NZ Entrepreneur for the demand-sensitive French liquor company Pernod Ricard in the NZ wine industry. He said a new machine was being built.

According to 100% Pure New Zealand, New Zealand has more than 2000 vineyards, producing over 8 million liters of wine each year, with nearly $ 2 billion in wine exports and New Zealand’s past 20 wine productions. It grows by 24% every year. It contributes $ 1.5 billion annually to the national economy and supports 16,500 full-time jobs. Marlboro is a place for many of its growth.

Kersley says Callaghan Innovation helped fund SmartMachine’s R & D, but what really spurred Oxin was Pernod Ricard’s challenge and timeline to Kersley and its co-founders. but,

“The key man in Smart Machine is co-founder Walter Langlois, an industrial electrician and a serial entrepreneur,” says Kersley.

“He had an industrial electricity and control company in Auckland for 25 years. Walter sold out and moved to Brenham with the intention of semi-retirement. He bought his own vineyard and settled in another way. He quickly realized that there were operational challenges that he could face. Over the years, he has developed many tools for international use in vineyards, with a focus on reducing labor input.

“His company was a mechanical service, where Walter developed his tools and tools and gained the respect and trust of the industry in the process. One of the clients he met was on the Pernod Ricard operations team. They asked him, “We have these problems, surely the technology is getting better-can you take a look?”

Kersley appeared in this photo in November 2018 with Nick Gledhill, who had partnered with Kersley at Axia on mechanical challenges such as medical implants, helicopters, consumer electronics, industrial and agricultural equipment. “We have been working with Walter for over a decade on many mechanical projects spanning agriculture, structural steel and packaging robotics. These were custom machines that were not readily available. Walter was a Smart Machine. I realized that this opportunity at was too big for me. ”

Gledhill and Kersley are strong collaborators, lifelong family friends, with similar engineering and technology qualifications, and have been working on 3D printing and scanning around 2010, when technology is fairly new.

All of this expertise meant that when Pernod Ricard requested a robotic solution for repetitive vineyard work, the smart machine trio knew what to do. Stop objects autonomously and safely. ”

Kersley may admit that there were some setbacks, but the Oxin prototype was delivered on schedule, the first iteration was only 6 months, and the second development (mowing and herbicide application). Taken another 6 months. Both projects “were a huge R & D journey in their own right,” says Carsley.

“These are built from scratch and incorporate comprehensive mechanical design, hydraulic systems, electrical systems, custom electronics, highly comprehensive on-machine software, and back-end software and interfaces to support the machine. I am. “

As to why Pernod Ricard simply didn’t import off-the-shelf options, Carsley said: [to import a pre-existing option] And in reality, there is no such thing in the world as Oxin available at this stage that can perform the required combination of tasks and has the power to do it for a long time. Also, the hardware is just as good as support. Therefore, offshore may lack a person with support and a knowledge base to improve it. We live locally and aim to expand to a level that can support the vineyards and orchards of Marlboro and Hawke’s Bay before focusing on the potential in the offshore market. “

According to Carsley, future generations of Oxin will need to move to diesel or full electricity, but in their current form they are productive and useful.

There are three advantages to these machines, Carsley adds. “They provide increased productivity, open the door to increased sustainability, enable data insights, use more information about the growing environment, and better, more information. It provides growers with the opportunity to make based decisions. ”

A story created in collaboration with the Marlboro District Council.


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Why Smart Machine Makes Robot Vineyard Vehicles – NZ Entrepreneur Magazine

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