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New Zealand - Marlborough vineyards scare birds with drones

Grape growers will go to great lengths to protect their crops and without them, birds can significantly damage to vineyards. Common tactics used in Marlborough to keep birds at bay include fake hawk kites, netting, shot guns, gas guns, reflective tape, even releasing hawks.

But technology is changing the bird scaring ball game, with some companies introducing drones to target bird “hot spots”. Berakah Vineyard Management (BVM) viticulturalist Logie MacKenzie said drones were proving to be a very effective bird scaring tool: “We’re trying to reduce the amount of guns we have on the blocks. The big driver for moving to drones is from a health and safety point of view.”

With a drone, they can now cover a very large area in a shorter time. MacKenzie: “We can sit up at the top of a 120 hectare vineyard and cover it all.”

Another advantage is that while his staff need licenses to operate the shot guns, anyone could be trained to fly a drone. BVM still used people on motorbikes carrying a shotgun, parking up in bird “hot spots” and shooting. They would also drive “round and round” the vineyard with a horn, trying to scare the birds.

“The idea of the drone is that it will replace some of the guns, but it will also replace the need to be driving around. This meant less fuel and less lead from the cartridges. There’s definitely environmental benefits.”

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