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Symington collaborates on robot field trials as labour shortfall hits Douro

Published:  11 September, 2017

Symington Family Estates has been at the centre of trials to robotise vineyards in a bid to make up for a workforce deficit in the Douro.

The Douro is known for its historic farming methods, but while traditional viticulture is still the norm, the region has reported having to adapt to a “serious” labour shortage as a result many people moving to the cities or abroad.

In an attempt to mitigate de-population, winemakers and universities from the Iberian Peninsula have embarked on a technology-led project called VineScout make up for the labour shortfall.

Work on VineScout, a vine-monitoring robot, began in December 2016, led by Spanish Universities Valencia and La Rioja in collaboration with Wall-YE Robots & Software of France and Sundance Multiprocessor Technologies of the UK.

The project has also had input from Symington Family Estates, who hosted the first trials in the vineyard at the end of August.

The trial took place one of the historic Port producer’s Douro vineyards, the Quinta do Ataíde Grape Variety Project.

Having received €1.7 million in funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 project, a total of €2 million investment has been put into VineScout, which is now moving into the next stage of development.

Symington’s, which also owns 1,024 hectares across 26 quintas (vineyards) in the Douro, said their backing is part of on-going efforts to “drive for higher quality Douro vineyards and to meet the serious challenges arising from the growing labour shortage”.