14 April 2017

Robots March on Kanonkop

Kanonkop Estate is using robots to punch down caps. Winemaker Abrie Beeslaar tells me he was inspired by seeing mechanical ‘feet’ being used to tread grapes in the Douro when he visited Symington Family Estates’ Port Lodges.

The success of the Kadette range, which uses grapes brought in from outside the estate, has necessitated Kanonkop constructing more traditional kuipes – the low open rectangular fermentation tanks. Up to now the 2 hourly pushing down of the cap of grape skins forced up by fermentation has been done around the clock by teams of estate workers. But the additional tanks were more than they could manage. 
Kuipe at Kanonkop, the two robots are an the far end
The robots were designed by Abrie and constructed especially for Kanonkop. 

Robot above a kuipe
The machines move slowly on tracks above the kuipes while metal plates rise and fall, mimicking the actions of people pushing the cap down. The machines are being evaluated and Abrie says the Estate wines will continue to be manually punched down.
Above the robot, and the mechanism for raising and lowering the pushing  plates
Abrie says his machines haven’t been patented and he’s easy going about other estates copying them. 

Another robot working the 2017 Kanonkop vintage for the first time is an optical sorter.
Right to left: Optical Sorter, vibrating sorting table receiving grapes from destemmer
Bins of grapes are emptied into a hopper where they are destalked, they then pass along the first vibrating sorting table before dropping onto the high-speed belt of the optical sorter.

Grapes being emptied from bin on forklift into detstemmer

Grapes become  a blur when they drop onto the high-speed optical sorter belt

I visited Kanonkop in March 2017

Thanks to Heidi Kritzinger for her guided tour of the robots, tasting & etc.


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