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Oxford agritech eyeing FTA benefits


Sushma Shankar and her team at Deep Planet, an Oxford founded agritech scale up, are supporting Australian winemakers in the vineyard.

Using VineSignal, Deep Planet helps growers and winemakers to improve their grape yields and quality, while bringing sustainability to winegrowing with a full suite of grape maturity, hands off yield , vineyard health and soil moisture monitoring and prediction services.

Following business visits to Australia in early 2020 supported by Innovate UK, Deep Planet is now working with growers and large winemakers in the Barossa, Coonawarra, and Hunter regions of Australia to predict yield and grape maturity to 90% accuracy for Australia’s top varieties. Deep Planet has developed unique opportunities for Australian growers to trial the technology in order to gain their confidence.

Sushma said that the close relationship of the two island nations especially culture, language, and emerging spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation has helped us build relationships with early adopters and growers in the Australian wine industry. Whilst there are vast differences in weather and the scale of agriculture (and the time zone!), the problems faced by the wine industry in both the UK and Australia are increasingly the same, both being affected by climate change.

In the past two growing seasons, we’ve conducted field trials and co-developed our technology with Australian wine growers. We’ve launched our product commercially six months ago and just in time for the Australian growing season, and we are now just shy of 100 growers from the region including medium-sized growers to few large winemakers in the region. Further to our visit to the evokeAg conference last year, we have participated in Foment Accelerator the Australian wine tech accelerator. Working with the Australian wine industry has enabled us to develop practical and cost-effective solutions that will help winegrowers at large, be it in Australia, or the UK, or elsewhere.

The UK Australia FTA will help with the ease of mobility of our staff, especially with conducting field trials, and help grow the business in Australia. Joint R&D would be helpful as it’ll bring more Australia UK collaboration taking advantage of world-leading research and facilities in both countries. An example of this is the opportunity we see in environmental conservation with global cross border collaboration of soil carbon baselining for the wine industry.