John Deere offers a result driven Smart Apply Intelligent Spray System

LiDAR sensors deliver precision spraying and engage the nozzles just when needed for John Deere’s Smart Apply Intelligent Spray System

Best’s Wines Managing Director Ben Thomson is the number one fan of what the John Deere Smart Apply Intelligent Spray System™ can achieve through reduced inputs

When Ben Thomson hosted a field day three years ago at his family’s historic winery, Best’s Wines at Great Western in Victoria, it was a unique event for several reasons.

The fifth-generation winemaker seldomly hosts field days despite Best’s Wines being a fixture of the local wine industry for more than 150 years, and this one attracted a larger-than-expected crowd.

Ben wanted to showcase the capabilities of a piece of technology he had been trialing for the past season – the John Deere Smart Apply Intelligent Spray SystemTM.

“When they saw it, half of them said ‘that’s amazing’ and the other half were ‘it will never work’,” Ben quipped.

Now he has three seasons of data to prove the naysayers wrong, but he’s not surprised at the early skepticism.

“It’s always hard to be the first person and the wine industry is very traditional because it’s a high value crop and people are nervous they might lose some crop,” Ben adds.

John Deere’s Smart Apply Intelligent Spray System™ activates nozzles only when it detects the canopy and as a result is able to deliver savings on both water and chemical use

Combining history and innovation

Ben knows all too well the value of the crops at his picturesque winery nestled beneath the Grampians. The original plantings date back to 1868, a smattering of varieties of which some are still unable to be identified.

“We’ve had them DNA tested, and no one knows what they are so there’s varieties in there that may not be anywhere else in the world,” Ben said.

An outbreak of a devastating aphid in Europe in the early 20th century also adds a special heritage significance.

“We’re pretty sure we’ve got the oldest pinot meunier and pinot noir in the world,” Ben adds.

“Phlloloxora is an aphid that attacks vine roots and all of Europe years ago had got Phlloloxora and had to rip their vines out. We’ve never had Phlloloxora here, so we’ve still got the original source.

“We had some people from Germany come over and take cuttings from the original reisling and take them back.

“It’s only starting to dawn on me as I get older that what we have here is really special and I feel a responsibility to keep it going.”

The sense of responsibility extends to the care of the environment and a particular interest in technology and innovation.

The business built on so much history also has a daring streak, like the night Ben woke up at 2am with the idea of making a sparkling white shiraz.

“My dad thought I was a bit crazy, but it’s been quite successful and we’re doing more this year, so it doesn’t always have to be a traditional sort of thing,” Ben acknowledged.

Enter Smart Apply

“I’m always asking if there is a different and better way of doing something. Like with our fungicide spraying, we’ve always just said we’re going to put on 200-litres/hectare. The next spray we’re going to put on 250-litres. It didn’t really matter whether this vine had six leaves on it and the other had 600 leaves on it, we still put the same amount on,” Ben explains.

The Smart Apply Intelligent Spray System uses LiDAR sensors to deliver precision spraying, effectively seeing where the crop is and engaging the nozzles when needed.

Ben saw savings in his first season and replicated them in the following two years. 

“We’ve seen a reduction in our chemical and water use of 40%, which is also making us more fuel and time-efficient out in the vineyard because we’re not driving backwards and forward to fill up as often,” Ben adds.

Smart Apply’s intelligent spray system is an upgrade kit that improves the precision and performance of any air-blast sprayer for orchards, vineyards and tree nursery spraying

“It’ll produce maps for you, and you can click on each vine and it’ll show how many millilitres you’ve applied to each vine. For me, it’s a bit of a no-brainer.”

As for the attendees at his field day years ago, Ben says he still bumps into them.

“They all ask, ‘how’s your Smart Apply going’ and I say ‘great’ and then ‘no disease’ and I say ‘no disease’.

“That’s the biggest thing. We’ve had two pressure seasons. The last two years were fairly wet and we’ve had no disease.

“So, if I’m using 40% less water and 40% less chemical, I don’t know how else I can show them – that’s the biggest proof I’ve got,” Ben concludes.

To see Smart Apply in action and hear more about the impact it’s having at Best’s Wines see more on the John Deere YouTube channel here.