Winemaking may be one of the modern era\u2019s oldest industries, but today many point to climate change as a crisis that may threaten future viability of the wine industry in some regions. Winemakers and grape growers have embraced new technologies to combat conditions that are becoming ever more unpredictable.\r\n\r\nRobots equipped with artificial intelligence are seen by some as an essential tool to mitigate the effects of drought, fluctuating temperatures and changes in harvest times. These machines arguably collect and predict data better than any human oenologist, and they may prove to be the wine world\u2019s best weapon against the climate of tomorrow.\r\n\r\n\r\nTed, the soil robot\r\nIn Bordeaux and the South of France, vineyard robots track vine configuration patterns. Further north, in Cognac, robots traverse the soil of the Grand Champagne and Petite Champagne crus.\r\n\r\nOne robot, dubbed Ted, was developed by Na\u00efo Technologies in Toulouse, France. A pair of robotics engineers, Ga\u00ebtan S\u00e9verac and Aymeric Barthes, developed Ted to provide answers to contemporary agriculture problems, particularly those that pertain to sustainable agriculture and labor-intensive tasks.\r\n\r\nLast year, Na\u00efo pitched Ted to R\u00e9my Martin, which implemented the technology to assist their farmers and increase precision in the vineyard. The brand is the first to own a Ted prototype, which is not yet available to the public. The partnership allows the centuries-old Cognac house to modernize their process, while Na\u00efo receives data necessary to enhance its robotics. Each week, Ted roams R\u00e9my Martin\u2019s vineyards and sends real-time data back to Na\u00efo.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBut what exactly does an autonomous robot do in the vineyard? Ted works beneath the soil to eliminate weeds under the vines. The task alleviates competition for the water and nitrogen supply, says Laura Mornet, who\u2019s responsible for research and development of viticulture at R\u00e9my Martin.\r\n\r\nTed seeks to ensure consistency in each row and plot, which is important for healthy grapes and water conservation. It also prunes vines, which eliminates the need for chemical weed killers.\r\n\r\n\u201cWith the limitation of plot inputs, global warming and climatic accidents such as hail and frost, the winegrower needs to be more responsive and intervene more quickly,\u201d says Mornet. Robots like Ted can help vineyards and farmers speed up traditional processes.\r\n\r\n\u201cRobotics provide solutions to human challenges and improve the regularity of work in the field,\u201d says Mornet. \u201cWe also use drones with captors to detect diseases and are able to heal them with the highest precision. In addition, our satellites are helping to increase visibility of the activity on our plots.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nThe VineScout project\r\nJust over the border in Spain, Dr. Francisco Rovira-M\u00e1s, professor at the Universitat Polit\u00e8cnica de Val\u00e8ncia and director of the Agricultural Robotics Lab, oversees another robotic vineyard project, named VineScout. Its robot analyzes thousands of data points from canopy temperature to nitrogen levels, all obtained via a 3D stereoscopic machine vision system, lidar and ultrasound sensors.\r\n\r\nEurope produces over half the world\u2019s wine supply. The socioeconomic effects of inconsistent quality in the bottle inspires the work of Rovira-M\u00e1s.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe risk of losing reputation is high when repeatability cannot be [guaranteed], which happens ever more in the vineyards where manual data sampling is meager due to unaffordable costs,\u201d says Rovira-M\u00e1s. \u201cTherefore, our aim is to industrialize, demonstrate and market\u2026a small-size and cost-efficient robot for the vineyard.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIn a March webinar to winemakers across the globe, Rovira-M\u00e1s said that harvest decisions loom as the biggest factor in the future of wine. VineScout\u2019s data assists vineyard management to identify homogenous zones of high-quality grapes.\r\n\r\nWhat can take winemakers weeks to compile and analyze, the robot can tackle in a fraction of that time. It can help calculate harvest timing, water measurements and nitrogen levels in vine leaves. An increase in field data can allow growers to more efficiently irrigate vines, which saves water. Similarly, growers that use pesticides or fertilizers can do so with more precision and predict or track results.\r\n\r\nRovira-M\u00e1s sees such technology as useful throughout Europe, as well as other agricultural industries that face similar challenges, like Washington State\u2019s renowned cherry trees.\r\n\r\nSymington Family Estates, in Portugal\u2019s Upper Douro, will be the first to employ VineScout in its harvest this year, when they will experiment with wines produced from selected zones.\r\n\r\nAs the world changes in ways that farmers struggle to predict, engineers will continue to aid those in the field to keep the wine and agriculture industries sustainable.\r\nDiscover more about how science is leading drinks into the future in our Wine & Tech issue.