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Monday 9 January 2017

If you are carrying a vine disease please make sure you have a mobile phone on you

Several leading wineries in South Australia are trialling a "virtual" fence aimed at keeping pests and diseases out of vineyards.

The software was initially developed to safeguard the Canadian poultry industry and now the vineyard cyber monitoring system known as Project Boundary Rider is in action here.

It is designed by Canadian company Be Seen Be Safe to keep South Australia’s $1.78 billion wine industry free of diseases such as phylloxera and Pierce’s disease.

Vinehealth Australia, based in South Australia’s capital of Adelaide, is overseeing the project and has begun a six-month trial at 30 vineyards in the renowned Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale wine regions.

It will include the busy vintage period, which runs from February to April, when vineyards and wineries are susceptible to pests and disease partly due to high traffic volumes in and out of properties.

The Boundary Rider app places a virtual fence around vineyards, tracking the movements of people across boundaries via GPS on a smartphone.

Movements are recorded in real-time, with vignerons benefiting from an up-to-date electronic visitor record of anyone with a smartphone who has moved across their geofences.

In the event of a pest or disease outbreak, the technology provides instant data to enable a rapid response to contain the spread and minimise loss.

Of course, if anyone without a smart phone accesses the vineyard then nothing is recorded. And the intruder has to have voluntarily have downloaded the relevant app, as well, which makes the system rather less than foolproof, as I know people in the wine industry who find it hard to remember to get up in the morning let alone take their phone from their car. 

Also, some vineyards are in remote areas with phone range; and animals and birds do not usually carry iPhones.

Vinehealth Australia technical manager Suzanne McLoughlin said while it was still early days for the project, initial feedback from users had been positive.

“Having it run over vintage and in the lead up is good because it is one of the times of the year when vineyards are experiencing high numbers of visitors and contractors coming onto properties,” she said.

“The program also helps us to raise awareness of biosecurity in general for a wide range of people from fruit pickers to wine tasters.”

Australia was the world’s fifth largest wine-producing nation in 2016 - behind Italy, France, Spain and the United States.

South Australian growers taking part include Chapel Hill Winery, Charles Melton Wines, D’Arenberg, Gemtree Wines, Henschke Cellars, St Hallett Wines, Torbreck Vintners and Wirra Vineyards.

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