As one of the oldest wineries in Hokkaido founded in 1974, the firm produces 2,000 kL annually, with just 81 employees.

There is a shortage of people on our farm and we cannot do enough weeding and pesticide application​,” said Kimihiro Shimamura, president of Hokkaido Wine, and second-generation farmer.

Hokkaido Wine approached robotic agriculture expert, Professor Noboru Noguchi from the Research Faculty of Agriculture at Hokkaido University for a collaboration.

Robot science

Professor Noguchi, who has been working on agriculture robots for more than 20 years, is trialing unmanned robots on the vineyard, using technology developed in his laboratory.

The robots are fitted with high-accuracy GPS to allow precise navigation. On the vineyard, through AI and 5G technologies, the robot can detect precipitation and areas requiring spraying.

Based on this information, it will spray the optimal amount of pesticides or fertilisers onto the grapes. “This way, it is good for the environment, since extra pesticides are not used​.”

In addition, the unmanned robot is fully electric, which makes it a sustainable option for wine making farmers.

Shimamura told FoodNavigator-Asia​: “It’s still under testing, but robot automation has made it possible to work more efficiently​.” The company also exports wine to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

Hokkaido Wine hopes to commercialise this robot in five years.

Besides wine and robot development, Hokkaido Wine is also undertaking research on upcycling the by-products from wine making to develop health foods.

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