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SheepIT, an E-Shepherd System for Weed Control in Vineyards: Experimental Results and Lessons Learned

Gonçalves, P. ; Nóbrega, L. ; Ramos, A. ; Pedreiras, P. ; Rodrigues, P.R. ; Esteves, F

Animals Vol. 11, Nº 9, pp. 2625 - 2625, September, 2021.

ISSN (print): 2076-2615
ISSN (online):

Scimago Journal Ranking: 0,61 (in 2021)

Digital Object Identifier: 10.3390/ani11092625

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Weed control in vineyards demands regular interventions that currently consist of the use of machinery, such as plows and brush-cutters, and the application of herbicides. These methods have several drawbacks, including cost, chemical pollution, and the emission of greenhouse gases. The use of animals to weed vineyards, usually ovines, is an ancestral, environmentally friendly, and sustainable practice that was abandoned because of the scarcity and cost of shepherds, which were essential for preventing animals from damaging the vines and grapes. The SheepIT project was developed to automate the role of human shepherds, by monitoring and conditioning the behaviour of grazing animals. Additionally, the data collected in real-time can be used for improving the efficiency of the whole process, e.g., by detecting abnormal situations such as health conditions or attacks and manage the weeding areas. This paper presents a comprehensive set of field-test results, obtained with the SheepIT infrastructure, addressing several dimensions, from the animals’ well-being and their impact on the cultures, to technical aspects, such as system autonomy. The results show that the core objectives of the project have been attained and that it is feasible to use this system, at an industrial scale, in vineyards.