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Sep 17, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Luxembourg: Drones are being used to spray vines

In Luxembourg, some winegrowers are using drones to spray their crops with fungicide. Though this method of spreading is already common in American vineyards, it has only been introduced very recently in Europe. Using these high-tech machines makes the whole process much safer for farmers. 

 

In Luxembourg, some winegrowers are using technology to make their job easier. Corinne Kox, whose family has grown vines since the beginning of the last century, is one of Europe’s pioneers in the field: she uses a drone to spray her vines with fungicide. She is trialling the procedure on the ten-hectare family estate in Luxemburg’s Moselle valley.

Drones are particularly useful in vineyards on steep slopes, compared with tractors, as they reduce the risk of accidents. Californian winegrowers have sprayed their crops using manoeuvrable and accurate drones for many years now. In Europe, the technique has been used in Switzerland for the last three years and in Germany since 2018.

 

More safety

 

In France, however, this method is not allowed. “The airborne treatment of crops is prohibited in France, and using drones is classed as an airborne treatment,” says Robert Verger, viticulture supervisor for the FNSEA, France’s first agricultural syndicate. “But spraying phytohygienic products using a drone, as farmers do in Asia and Africa, is safer for farmers because they do not come into contact with the product.” 

In Luxembourg, the steepness of the vineyards make airborne spraying a good alternative. “They’re the steepest in the EU, with a slope of more than 30%,” highlights Erwan Nonet, editor of a magazine that specialises in Luxemburg viticulture. On the Kox family estate, which produces Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois and Gewurztraminer white wines, as well as some sparkling wines and red wines, the drones are flown between 1 and 1.5 metres above the grapes, and spray the vines extremely accurately.

 

Low autonomy and a small reservoir

 

The drones have a wingspan of around 1.5 metres. They make a small noise that sounds a bit like a swarm of flying insects. The operator pilots the machine – which can either follow a programmed route or be directed using the controls – from the edge of the field. The device has 5 or 6 minutes’ autonomy and can transport up to 10 litres of product. This means that it needs its batteries changed and its tanks refilled fairly regularly.

Luxaviation, a company founded in Luxembourg in 2008 – the leading business aviation company in Europe and second in the world, with a fleet of 260 helicopters and planes – supplies the drones, the equipment and the operator. The device, along with its accessories, is worth 40,000 dollars. The company’s aim is to branch out into agricultural drones, a market in which Swiss company Agrofly is already established.

 

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