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Robots Take Over Italy's Vineyards as Wineries Struggle with COVID-19 Worker Shortages

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Mirko Cappelli harvests grapes using an automated machine pulled by tractor.

For many vintners in Europe and the U.S., the difficulty of finding workers has pushed them to take the robot plunge.

Credit: Francesco Lastrucci/The Wall Street

Vintners are turning to automation amid pandemic-driven labor shortages. Italian winemaker Mirko Cappelli purchased an automated grape harvester from French manufacturer Pellenc for his Tuscan vineyard, which shakes vine rows and sucks up the grapes that fall.

Cappelli says he and his father completed harvesting their 13 hectares in about 10 days with the machine, compared to about 18 with handpickers.

Thiébault Huber with a French vintners' trade group said farmers have doubts about the quality of the grapes the machines pick, and machine harvesting has been banned in France's Champagne region.

Yet farmers in Italy's Valdesa region say robot harvesters do at least as good a job harvesting as people.

From The Wall Street Journal
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