Farming innovation – creating a digital mapping tool for vineyards

An image of Ian Beecher-Jones on his vineyard

NFU member and owner of JoJo's Vineyard Ian Beecher-Jones tells us how he used Defra's FIP (Farming Innovation Programme) grant to transform the use of digital mapping on his vineyard. 

JoJo’s Vineyard, based in the picturesque Chiltern Hills, has been awarded an FIP grant to support the development of a digital mapping tool for vineyards and other row crops.

The FIP is an investment by Defra into research and development projects of commercial value to the agriculture industry, as part of the ATP (Agricultural Transition Plan).

Ian is just one of the many recipients who has benefited from the grant and predicts that the digital mapping tool has the potential to save up to £1million for the UK viticulture and orchard industry.

Drones and robots on the vineyard

The mapping tool, developed with OpenAgMaps and the Collabriculture project in Australia, will create a shareable, digital infrastructure of the farm’s rows and boundaries using either drones or other surveying tools.

The crux of the project is to develop a mechanism by which this infrastructure can then be shared with any other on farm technology developer, such as robots or drones, instead of each different technology undergoing its own infrastructure mapping procedures. 

The project will invite developers to work with them to onboard their technology onto the mapping software, using the vineyard as a trial farm.

Time and cost savings

Ian hopes that this project will improve access to automation technologies for all row crop growers by reducing the time needed and the costs associated with installing new digital solutions on farm.

He sees significant cost savings available to growers, alongside the benefits of automation and increased technology to improve production and mitigate labour issues.

Applying for the grant

When discussing applying for the funding, Ian described the benefits of partnering with the Agri-EPI Centre as key to winning the award. He also appreciated their partnership in the admin procedures involved in applying for grant funding and the opportunities a network organisation has of meeting forward thinking businesses who want to technology work on farm.

Ian’s advice to any farmers or growers considering applying for FIP grants in the future was to “talk to the people around you about your crazy ideas, learn from them and then seek out the great support that’s out there to turn it into a reality”.

You can find out more about the grant, and other upcoming competitions for funding, by reading our guide to the Farming Innovation Programme.

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