Kaan Kurtural [COO-trall], professor of viticulture and enology, says grape growers once could depend on a transit workforce that would come in work the land, and then move on to other crops, but that’s not happening anymore.
“As our vineyard sizes increase, it’s not possible to get over these vineyards in a reasonable amount of time with the labor crews that we have. So, the option right now, that’s on the horizon is to adapt to the new reality and incorporate more mechanization.”
Kurtural noted hopefully that technology and research will spill over to table grapes into the future, adding their research indicates that using machines during harvest can save an operation roughly 50 percent.
Mechanization saves labor costs without compromising grape quality. UC Davis a developed touchless experimental vineyard, which he pointed out resulted in very little labor needs.
“But what we found as a footnote is actually much better for these systems too, these trellises since they’re developed in California now, they are more adapted to our climate, rather than using the trellises that were developed in Bordeaux or France that would be much cooler and not adapted to our reality of heat.”