The wine industry has become more competitive than ever before. “Winemakers have to fight for their rightful place,” says Daneel Rossouw, functional head of agriculture at Nedbank’s Relationship Channels, on this week’s episode of the Farmer’s Inside Track podcast.
Not only does the wine industry in South Africa have to compete against other wine industries internationally, but also against other highly profitable industries such as citrus and fruit. They compete for water and for land.
“The wine industry has been struggling with profitability for a number of years now,” Rossouw adds. He believes wine producers can only remain competitive by embracing technology at all stages of their business: from inputs, to processing, to marketing and finally sales.
“The only way to survive is by reducing cost, on the one side, and also increasing income on the other side,” he explains.
With the sharp increases in minimum wages over the last 2 or 3 years, it has been extremely difficult for farmers and wineries to remain profitable, as labour is one of the biggest components of their cost structure.
“I believe as a result of this we will see an increase in mechanisation,” Rossouw says. “Especially on the harvesting and pruning side of the business.”
“We acknowledge the fact that nothing will ever replace the human touch in the industry. It makes winemaking unique compared to other industries.”
But it is an international trend, not just in the wine industry but all industries, to see the increased use of robotics, he explains.
We will see a lot more mechanisation in the production process, according to Rossouw. Not just to increase profitability, but also to remain relevant.
We will also see increased use of drone technology, he says. The use of drones will offer more precise pest control, the ability to gather data on the health of your vineyards, as well as to predict yields and the quality of the grapes.
In the winery itself, there is already wine processing tools that improve harvesting, sorting, settling and filtration that also helps winemakers.
Alcohol-free wines are also a pretty big deal now, according to Rossouw. And this, he explains, is made possible by vacuum distilling at low temperatures after fermentation. This retains the flavours of the wine while eliminating most of the alcohol content.
“I don’t think technology and robotics should be seen as a threat,” he says. “It is actually essential for growth.”
For Rossouw, the ideal way forward is a blend of humans and technology. “After all, wine has always been about science and about art,” he says.
Find out more by listening to this week’s Farmer’s Inside Track podcast or by reading Rossouw’s article, Artificial intelligence: from vineyard to shopping basket.
Other podcast highlights:
Some other highlights from this week’s Farmer’s Inside Track podcast:
- The 101 of goat farming: The low operating costs for goat rearing can make this trade very lucrative – but like any other commodity you’ll need to know the ropes.
Journalist Dona van Eeden chats to North West goat farmer Neo Leburu who has been farming with goats for more than a decade now.
- Farmer’s tip of the week: Our farmer tip of the week comes from North West subsistence farmer Gustav Thekiso. He took the plunge and grew his father’s farming enterprise from subsistence to a larger scale. They now operate three farms in different parts of the North West province
- Book of the week: Our book of the week is Leadershift by John C. Maxwell. The author shares 11 shifts he made over the course of his leadership career – including shifting his mind from ladder climbing to ladder building. Our Sinelizwi citizen journalist Lunga Jakuja reviews this book.
- App of the week: The ARC Hub app provides farmers with critical information and best-practice knowledge that allows them to be productive, economically efficient and contribute meaningfully to the nation’s food basket and keeping the country fed. Agricultural Research Councils’ Advisory service coordinator Lerato Maboa tells us more about this app.
- SoilSistas: This week’s #SoilSista, powered by Food For Mzansi and Corteva Agriscience, is Limpopo vegetable farmer Mokgadi Manamela. Her agri business also teaches farmers about sustainability.
- Mzansi Flavour: Henrico Sampson transitioned from apprentice teppanyaki chef to opening his own sushi takeout business in his garage at home in Paarl in the Western Cape. This week he shares his secret to the best sushi in Mzansi.
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