During my time as a fourth year viticulture intern, I was lucky enough to see and experience some of the innovative ways that farmers and viticulturists go about their daily tasks.  One of the more interesting approaches I came across, is what I like to call the “bakkie-boer”. Don’t get me wrong- this is not to be confused with the same word as the Afrikaans term for an inactive, lazy farmer that drives past his vineyards and only farms from a distance as to make profit, no, this refers to a farmer that is so concerned with his vineyard inspections and being efficient that he drives through his vineyard with his Hilux bakkie! Why waste any time walking through the rows whilst inspecting your vines, if a bakkie can get you there so much faster?

It happened on numerous occasions where (when the between row spacing of the vines permitted it) the farmers and consultants would inspect the grapes and vines from out of the driver’s seat. And don’t make the mistake to think that they were lazy and just quickly “scanning” through the vineyards. They were driving slowly, but surely, and meticulously tasting grapes for aroma peaks and flavours. They also took refractometer readings as they drove along, correlating the balling to the different flavour profiles as to make a well informed decision on when they need to harvest which grapes. Even the grape seeds were inspected for the correct colour, shape and hardness. These farmers were like thorough doctors examining their patients before making a critical diagnosis.

This method of farming surely has many advantages. Firstly, it is of course a major time saver and as the important people say: “time wasted is money wasted”. This is of particular benefit during harvest time when all events on the farm are turned upside down and into chaos and the viticulturist has an eager winemaker breathing down his neck, wanting know when they can start harvesting the MCC Pinot noir.

The second advantage comes into play when the farmer or consultant has a double-cab bakkie. This allows at least four people  (each having a window seat) to take part in the evaluation process and give their opinions and insight on the state of the vines. This, however, can of course also lead to heavy debate in a small, confined space, but luckily this is less often the case, as the passengers tend to agree with the consultant and his impeccable wisdom. Furthermore, if you can have someone standing on the back of the bakkie you can have a low-flying bird’s eye view of the vineyard. This can be of major use to identify within-vineyard variability or “bad” patches of struggling vines. The distribution of diseased vines can also be carefully monitored from this all-seeing angle.

Thirdly, there is of course the reduced chances of sunburn and the amount of money saved by not having to buy expensive sunscreen. Not to mention the comfort provided by  the ever-cooling air-conditioning, which has also been shown to help combat mental and physical fatigue. So not only does this methodology help farmers save time and money, but it is better for their health as well!

Taking all of these factors into consideration, it goes to show that these viticulturists are truly innovative thinkers and at the forefront of using technology to increase efficiency, save money and better the health of both the vines and themselves. And to these remarkable individuals I say: Long live the bakkie-boer!