The weeding to remove vegetable species growing in vineyards and orchards farmland, is a costly process that needs to be repeated. In this process, mechanical and chemical methods are used to remove herbs or to prevent its growth. Plows and cutters are used to remove herbs between plant rows and herbicides are applied on the line between plant feet, in order to kill the weeds. Both methods are considered very aggressive and chemicals remain in the environment and may contaminate water lines, being harmful to the final consumer.
These processes also entail a significant economic impact, representing in the vineyards' 20 to 35% of total working time on farms, with costs per hectare ranging from 80€/ha up to 380€/ha.
The use of animals for controlling weeds is an old method that has been successfully tested in various regions, reducing the environmental impact and providing land fertilization, but it cannot be used throughout the year, since animals tend to feed on the lower branches of plants and on fruits, affecting production.
This project aims to develop an IoT based system, able to control animal posture, limiting their ability to access branches and vine fruits, and to deploy virtual fences to control animal feeding areas. In this way, it will be possible to use herds of sheep to make the weeding of vineyards. This approach is disruptive compared to approaches based on electrification of the rows of grapevines, presenting several advantages:
- Reduced installation costs: system includes devices coupled to animals and portable RF beacons defining the grazing area.
- Flexibility: system can be quickly and easily moved between different vineyards, and other types of crops.
- Veterinary monitoring of herd status: system allows the collection of mobility rates that allows monitoring of animal behavior, with potential interest from the herd health point of view.
- Security: real-time herd supervision allows detection of abnormal situations, such as attacks from predators.
SheepIT is a joint research project between the Instituto de Telecomunicações, Globaltronic, Ramos Pinto and Escola Superior de Agronomia / Instituto Politécnico de Viseu, involving the "Telecommunications and Networking" (ATNoG) and "Embedded Systems – Av " groups. It was funded by COMPETE 2020 program, approved with the reference 17640.
The project has started on October 2016, going all the way to September 2018.
Task 1: Preliminary studies and state of the art analysis
Task 2: Technical specifications
Task 3: Laboratorial development
Task 4: Development
Task 5: Prototype development and pilot creation
Task 6: Validation tests and integration
Task 7: Project promotion and result dissemination