Category: About the project

VitiCanopy: A new smartphone and Tablet PC App to assess vigour and canopy architecture of Horticultural Trees

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Roberta De Bei 1, Sigfredo Fuentes 2, Matthew Gilliham 1,3, Steve Tyerman 1,3, Everard Edwards 4, Nicolò Bianchini 4,5, Jason Smith 6,† and Cassandra Collins 1,*

1School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, Waite Research Institute, the University of Adelaide,
PMB 1 Glen Osmond 5064, South Australia, Australia; (R.D.B.); (M.G.); (S.T.)
2Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, the University of Melbourne, Parkville 3010, Victoria, Australia;
ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, Waite Research Institute, PMB 1 Glen Osmond 5064, South Australia, Australia
3CSIRO Agriculture, Waite Campus Laboratory, Private Bag 2, Glen Osmond 5064, South Australia, Australia; (E.E.); (N.B.)
4Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie (DipSA), the University of Bologna, Area Colture Arboree, Viale Fanin 46, 40127 Bologna, Italy
5National Wine and Grape Industry Centre, Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, 6Wagga Wagga 2678, New South Wales, Australia;
Correspondence:; Tel.: +61-08-8313-6813
Current address: Hochschule Geisenheim University, Department of General and Organic Viticulture, Von-Lade-Str. 1, 65366 Geisenheim, Germany.


Leaf area index (LAI) and plant area index (PAI) are common and important biophysical parameters used to estimate agronomical variables such as canopy growth, light interception and water requirements of plants and trees. LAI can be either measured directly using destructive methods or indirectly using dedicated and expensive instrumentation, both of which require a high level of know-how to operate equipment, handle data and interpret results. Recently, a novel smartphone and tablet PC application, VitiCanopy, has been developed by a group of researchers from the University of Adelaide and the University of Melbourne, to estimate grapevine canopy size (LAI and PAI), canopy porosity, canopy cover and clumping index. VitiCanopy uses the front in-built camera and GPS capabilities of smartphones and tablet PCs to automatically implement image analysis algorithms on upward-looking digital images of canopies and calculates relevant canopy architecture parameters. Results from the use of VitiCanopy on grapevines correlated well with traditional methods to measure/estimate LAI and PAI. Like other indirect methods, VitiCanopy does not distinguish between leaf and non-leaf material but it was demonstrated that the non-leaf material could be extracted from the results, if needed, to increase accuracy. VitiCanopy is an accurate, user-friendly and free alternative to current techniques used by scientists and viticultural practitioners to assess the dynamics of LAI, PAI and canopy architecture in vineyards, and has the potential to be adapted for use on other plants.

Keywords: canopy vigor; LAI; PAI; computer application; light extinction coefficient; image analysis; cover photography

Digital Viticulture Seminar: A success

The seminar was organised by the Melbourne Networked Society Institute (MNSI)

The Digital Viticulture seminar was a success with around 45 attendants from the academia, research and industry. In that occasion it was presented project advances so far and potential applications in the viticultural industry using sensor network and unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

However, all the technology and algorithms developed are not only applicable to viticulture, but also to a variety of other Horticultural and Agricultural crops and beyond. Some of the techniques related to visible and infrared thermography developed has been applied to assess biometrics in humans for sensory analysis of food and brewages and in animals to assess stress levels in productive processes, such as in the dairy industry.

According to Dr Sigfredo Fuentes, new and emerging technologies are easy to implement in precision agriculture, obtaining meaningful and repeatable interpretations of the data is where the applied science plays a big role. He mentioned the case of the newly developed smartphone and tablet PC App: VitiCanopy that can be downloaded from iTunes. “The VitiCanopy App was developed three years ago from technology that has been studied since 2007, its release to the public was last October 2015 after several trials to validate it in Chile, Spain and Australia. The beauty of the App is that it has been applied successfully in Apple orchards, Eucalyptus forests, Cherry trees, Cocoa orchards and Olive trees.

It was also shown in the seminar a prototype UAS made with 3D printed parts using a 3D metal powder printer (Titanium). The objective of this technology according to Dr Richard Collmann is to decrease the weight of UAS to increase payload for remote sensors and obtain more information per flights. Dr Collmann also discussed prototypes to change batteries automatically to increase flight time of UAS.

The seminar will be available as a podcast soon and posted in this webpage.


The Digital Vineyard Research Seminar


Working at various locations in South Australia and Victoria, with both wine grape and truffle crops; the project is developing key elements of sensor network and camera calibration, research and methods for combining the data from the different types of sensors, and developing data analysis methods that will provide actionable metrics for growers.

The network of sensors and drones used in The Digital Vineyard gather data that can keep Australian wine growers more connected to the soil-plant-atmosphere status of their crops than ever before. This is the way forward for precision agriculture.

This research seminar is a chance to learn more about this amazing project, meet the team, and ask some questions. It will include a presentation of the Digital Vineyard project, a Q&A session, followed by some friendly drinks, food, and networking – because we cannot talk about good wine without tasting some, of course.

This is a free event, but we ask attendees to please register so we can cater to numbers. Feel free to share this invite with your networks and colleagues.

Event Details

Date: Thursday 28 April 2016

Time: 3:00pm to 5:00pm

Venue: Richard Newton Rooms, Lvl 5, Electrical and Electronic Engineering Building (193), University of Melbourne​. Map:

The Vineyard of The Future in the Financial Review – Australia

by Emily ParkinsonThe absence of absolute control over the grape-growing process has always been part of the charm of winemaking.

But now a new generation of sensor-driven viticulture tools is giving growers the ability to monitor and measure their vines like never before.

Remote sensors with the ability to detect everything from how much water a plant is storing to how much light is falling on the ripening grape are revealing valuable information about just how variable the biosphere of a single vineyard can be.

“There is no such thing as a uniform vineyard,” says Rob Bramley, senior principal research scientist at CSIRO and expert in precision agriculture. “Imagine a vineyard where, at one end, the fruit was suitable as a high-value product, such as Grange for instance, and at the other end it was more like Chateau cardboard. Obviously, you want to keep those two areas separate, even though they occur in the same vineyard. There is a lot of money to be made in technologies that understand that.”

The rest of the world has caught up on a lot of the innovations that gave the Australian industry its early advantage in ...
The rest of the world has caught up on a lot of the innovations that gave the Australian industry its early advantage in producing very cost-effective, quality wine. Tamara Voninski

As part of a global Vineyard of the Future collaboration, researchers at The University of Adelaide have developed an app to help grape growers monitor the growth of the vineyard “canopy”.

Launched last year, the VitiCanopy app allows a winemaker to get a quick reading on vine growth to help make decisions about the balance between leaf and fruit growth.

Users can take a picture of the vine using their smartphone, which then returns a reading or measure of the “vigour” of the canopy.


Three years in development, the technology is designed to help farmers assess whether there is enough light penetration to the fruit zone, which in turn feeds into the colour, flavour and aroma of the grape.

The free, downloadable app is now being used by winemakers in South America, Spain, Germany and China, according to Professor Sigfredo Fuentes, a senior lecturer in wine science at the University of Melbourne, who co-developed the app as part of the global Vineyard of the Future initiative.

Novel applications such as those used in Vineyard of the Future use inexpensive sensor technology – for instance thermal and GPS sensors mounted to drones or “multicopters” – to collect data on all aspects of grapevine physiology, from vine growth to water and nutrient status.

That data can be particularly powerful for those winemakers in gaining the upper hand over the effects of a changing climate on their grapes, Fuentes says.

“Hotter weather has meant grapes are generally now harvested earlier than has historically been the case,” he says, a practice that alters the structure of the grape and, in turn, contributes to the higher incidence of berry shrivel in Australian grapes, particularly shiraz.

“Shiraz is really sensitive to berry shrivel and usually a normal rate of berry shrivel in shiraz in Australia is 30 per cent, but you can find up to 50 per cent in the Barossa in heatwave conditions, particularly when the [grapes] encounter a heatwave close to harvest – that is really bad. Obviously yield suffers, but so does quality – all the enzymes and colour is degraded, you have a higher concentration of sugar, which gives you high alcohol with a really low-quality wine.”

Data from thermal maps can help stamp out problems such as berry shrivel and assist in controlling the alcohol content in wines, Fuentes says.


Rabobank senior wine and grape analyst Marc Soccio says innovation and technology has played an important role in the past success of the Australian wine industry: “refrigeration in wineries, tank infrastructure, Stelvin screw caps – these sorts of innovations have been very important output from [research and development] within the Australian wine industry, but over the past 10 years, much of the world has caught up on a lot of the innovations that gave our industry its early advantage in producing very cost-effective, quality wine,” he says.

“The playing field has been levelled somewhat. It’s been a difficult 10 years for Australian wine and we need to regain that edge in global markets,” Soccio says. “We need to continue to invest pretty heavily in science and innovation and R&D. Fortunately, the Australian wine industry has these bodies in place to help resource and research these sorts of innovations.”

Working from the assumption of precision viticulture – which is that grape-growing landscapes are inherently variable and need to be managed as such – enabling technologies are a powerful tool in revealing those variations, Bramley says.

“Most boundaries around vineyards or sugar cane fields are accidents of fate and fences have no biophysical meaning at all. The variation in the land continues underneath,” Bramley says. “That being the case, having access to some technologies that help you understand that variability then gives you an ability to react to it in different ways; for instance, harvesting fruit into different product streams to achieve variation in blends.”

Bramley is an expert in precision agriculture and one of the researchers responsible for the first wine-grape yield map in 1999.

That development laid the foundations for the modern practice of precision viticulture, and precision agriculture as applied to other crops such as wheat and sugar. But gone are the days of having a single measure of yield – or a straightforward average of the amount of fruit a defined area of land produced, he says. Now yield monitors and newer sensor technologies mean winemakers have “many thousands of measures of yield” and access to detailed maps of how yield is distributed.

“What these spatial technologies and linking of sensors and GPS allows you to do, is measure things at a much higher resolution, or spatial intensity, than has ever been possible before,” Bramley says.

“People are starting to use technologies that allow them to understand about that sort of variability, because there is a lot of money to be made in getting things right. It’s like the saying: you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

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