The increased cost of labor in modern viticulture stemming from the nature of operations that require physical strength and precision, coupled with labor shortages, poses a significant constraint in facilitating and scheduling seasonal activities. Therefore, autonomous collaborative robots present a potential solution for achieving sustainable development objectives and decreasing operational expenditures in agricultural operations. The current paper presents an economic assessment of collaborative robots (or cobots for short) in comparison to conventional labor for four different cultivars in Greece in a lifecycle costing methodological framework. The selected cultivars are Asyrtiko, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo, which are cultivated by two private wineries in the area of interest. All the relevant expenses of their annual production were distributed to agricultural operations, and eight scenarios were developed to compare conventional and cobot practices. The results indicate the great potential of cobots regarding specific viticultural operations such as weed control, pruning, herbiciding and topping. The adoption of cobots in these operations has the potential to contribute to sustainable agriculture by reducing labor costs and addressing labor shortages, while also increasing the efficiency and precision of these tasks. Nevertheless, the defoliation and tying operations appeared to be inefficient in most cases in comparison to conventional labor practices. Overall, the annual equivalent costs could be reduced by up to 11.53% using cobots, even though the projected lifetime of the cobots plays a significant role in the cost-effectiveness of autonomous robotic labor in viticulture. In conclusion, cobots could be instrumental in the Greek viticulture, integrating innovation and high-quality products toward sustainable agricultural development.
E. Tziolas, E. Karapatzak, I. Kalathas, A. Karampatea, A. Grigoropoulos, A. Bajoub, T. Pachidis, V. G. Kaburlasos, “Assessing the economic performance of multipurpose collaborative robots toward skillful and sustainable viticultural practices”, Sustainability, vol. 15, no. 4, 3866, 2023. https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/15/4/3866
(Special Issue “Sustainability in Circular Bioeconomy”. Editors: Maria Batsioula, Apostolos Malamakis, Spiliotis Xenofon, George Banias)