Vineyard Automation and Labor Challenges
Winegrape producers have been using mechanical harvesters for decades, but in recent years, they’ve also adopted equipment for other vineyard operations like thinning and pruning. UC Cooperative Extension viticulturist Kaan Kurtural says this is helping producers solve for labor costs and labor availability.
Kurtural… “Right now we're running three shifts. In each shift you need two to three people to operate the machines in the vineyard.”
Kurtural says this is a dramatic reduction in employees from when this was all done manually. But it’s also increasing the demand for employees trained in viticulture and related technology.
Kurtural… “To operate per acre, you're down to like three people, as opposed to 32 or 33 in the past. But these folks that they tend to hire now are mostly college educated people. Viticulturists or assistant manager types that can take information, interpret it, and then apply it very rapidly to changing conditions in the vineyard. So we need a little bit better trained staff to operate these machines, but it has been a kind of disruptive technology to, the way we operate in California as far as grapes go.”
Kurtural and colleagues published a best management practices review in the journal Catalyst.