Vineyard spray system that eliminates need for protective gear nominated for high-tech award

Stephen Leitch and Ross Sinclair (SWE) at NZ Hi Tech Awards Finalist Announcement Event, Wellington, 27 March 2024

Southern Water Engineering (SWE) has been recognised as a finalist for the NZ Hi Tech Award for its fully automated smart spray technology, which Pernod Ricard said has revolutionised its vineyard operations and enhanced the health and safety of employees.

Pernod Ricard Winemakers and SWE collaborated to develop the SmartSpray solution, which has been installed at Brancott Vineyard in Marlborough. The technology automates the vineyard spray mixing process by using an automated pumping and injection system with advanced programming that ensures tractor spraying units receive the exact right quantity, composition and dilution of solution, tailored to each specific job. This reduces safety risks by minimising manual and chemical handling.

“This project stemmed from our desire to upgrade our existing Brancott Vineyard spray shed to bring it into the future to be safer, smarter and more adaptable. It’s been incredibly rewarding to witness SWE bring it to life,” said Lesley Boon, viticulture manager – South Island Operations at Pernod Ricard Winemakers.

“The SmartSpray Solution represents a significant advancement in viticultural technology. It not only benefits vineyard operators but also contributes to environmental sustainability, while enhancing productivity, accuracy, and traceability within the viticulture industry, setting new standards for operational excellence.”

“The collaboration with SWE exemplifies our commitment to innovation and sustainability, and we are excited to see SWE named as a finalist for the NZ Hi Tech Award.”

Stephen Leitch, director at SWE, said the new process allows vineyard operators to complete spray mixing in just 25 percent of the time previously required.

“The previous standard practice for spraying in the vineyard required operators to dress in PPE, put gloves on, mix up the chemical solution, put it into the spray unit and then take all the PPE gear off and hang it up before they’re able to complete the cycle of spraying. Then they’d have to come back and do it all again for the next cycle.”

With the new process, vineyard operators no longer need to wear extensive PPE gear due to the enclosed and automated system, leading to a safer and faster refill experience.

“Operators can now simply connect a hose and push a couple of buttons to start the automated filling process, then they are good to go!” Leitch said. “So, we’re seeing the eradication of thousands of manual lifting events every year, reduced chemical handling, and up to 75% time saving per fill. That’s pretty incredible when you multiply that across big vineyards and across the year.”

“We have been thrilled to collaborate with Pernod Ricard Winemakers to create what we understand to be the first automated spray shed solution globally. This is a cutting-edge application of technology and the whole project team have been very proud of what we have been able to accomplish to make viticultural processes smarter, faster, and safer,” he adds.

The NZ Hi Tech Award finalists were unveiled at an event hosted simultaneously in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch on Wednesday night, with the nomination highlighting the potential of the SmartSpray solution.

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