Agrifrance 2018 Rural Report: Interview with Olivier Maffrand
"Our goal is to ensure that the use of drones and the data they gather
are as automated as possible, so that our clients can focus on the essentials,
in other words using the indicators to run their business."
Whether undertaking inspections in inaccessible environments or replacing workers who carry out repetitive tasks, drones have now moved beyond the experimental stage and are being used more and more in agriculture and industry. Drones are able to capture data rapidly and at a lower cost, and can therefore digitalise both processes and assets.
What types of service can wine‑growers call on?
O.M. A drone is a tool that wine‑growers can use throughout the crop cycle. First and foremost, drones can identify unproductive vines. According to the French national observatory of wood diseases, around 13% of all vine stock in France is unproductive; that is a substantial loss of productivity considering that the wine industry turns over €16 billion annually! To make a plot of land profitable again while maintaining the density required for each appellation, renewal planning takes place at the beginning of each growing season and at the end of the harvest.
The process of searching out unproductive vines consists in identifying the location and number of dead vines, in order to prepare the companion planting on priority plots. Doing this job on foot is slow and tedious, so drones are ideal for the task. Another way that drones are extremely useful is in assessing the vitality of vine stock. The purpose of this technique is to identify factors that hamper vine maturity. By using multispectral sensors embedded on the drones to assess chlorophyll levels, we can interpret factors which are likely to affect the condition of vines, for example, hydric stress (too little or too much water) either due to topographical reasons or as a result of exceptional weather conditions. Another factor might be a lack of organic matter in the soil. In this case a solution would be to introduce a differentiated regime of organic fertilising, adjusting the amounts used in each case.
What are your greatest assets?
O.M. At Hawk we see ourselves as a ‘Drone-As-A-Service’ company. We offer on-demand services, meaning that our clients don’t need to own drones which rapidly become obsolete and/or require special skills to handle. Our goal is to ensure that the use of drones and the data they gather are as automated as possible, so that our clients can focus on the essentials, in other words using the indicators to run their business. With this in mind, we have developed the first‑ever platform for carrying out vineyard inspections by means of drones. For example, our service includes selecting the plots to inspect, choosing the type of inspection according to the information sought, and then ordering a drone mission. For this we work alongside a community of drone operators whom we have carefully hand-picked. Following the inspection, we analyse the collected data, which are then input into the vineyard estate’s own dashboard. This helps to monitor the quality of production, from vineyard to glass, you might say. In this way a vineyard manager can cross data on topography, weather forecasts (via sensors) and the vines themselves in order to plan cultivation work more efficiently and draw up the plot selection calendar for harvest, for example.
Last but not least, data traceability provided by our platform is an additional guarantee when vineyards are bought and sold. A prospective buyer can access the full due diligence for an expert’s report on – and valuation of – a vineyard. From the range of indicators available we can calculate for each plot the planted surface, the vine density, the full topography of the vineyard (slopes, exposure, curves/dips in the terrain) plus the age of the vines and the grape variety. This type of information becomes even more important when an estate has been affected by an unusual weather event, such as the severe frost we experienced in spring 2017.
Agrifrance is the specialist rural property division of BNP Paribas Wealth Management, offering clients seeking the right investment and wealth management solutions the benefit of over 40 years of experience in the viticulture, farming, forestry and prestigious homes markets. With its network of recognised professionals, Agrifrance is also able to provide complementary services such as expertise in and management of rural properties.
Agrifrance is one of the asset diversification services proposed by BNP Paribas Wealth Management along-side Private Equity, Real Estate, Art Advisory …
What do drones bring to the viticulture industry?
O.M. Drones are now helping to develop precision wine‑growing. As you may know, the three benefits of precision wine growing are increasing quality and yield, cutting costs, and reducing the need for pesticides. Observation using aerial imagery provides detailed and geolocation knowledge of a wide spectrum of parameters. These parameters (land, soil or vine stock) are analysed during the various phenological stages (budding, flowering, fruit setting, ripening and harvesting). Drones can manoeuvre easily and can be deployed in all kinds of terrain. They fly at low altitudes and provide excellent image resolution. Because they can be deployed rapidly, they can be used to carry out regular observations and, not least, they provide data at a low cost.