By Lauren Hermon
When Naracoorte’s Matt Lowe and Jason Standley mix wine with innovation, they end up with an award-winning concept which will improve wine grape production methods in South Australia.
Treasury Wine Estates‘ workshop manager, Matt, and diesel mechanic, Jason, won the 2016 PIRSA Vinnovation Award for their new sulphur dosing station.
It delivers an exact dose of sulphur to grape bins, eliminates human exposure to sulphur fumes, and reduces manual handling and hazardous risk areas.
The boys accepted the award at the South Australian Winegrape Growers Summit at Adelaide Oval today (Friday, June 17).
Their sulphur dosing station comprises two tanks – one with 100 litres of pre-mixed sulphur solution and the other with 500 litres of fresh water. There’s also a series of hoses and taps and a 12 volt pump operated by a remote control from inside the driver’s cabin.
It can mix enough sulphur to dose 50 bins at a time. Once the sulphur tank is filled, the driver stops next to the unit and presses a remote control from his seat. This starts the pump which is timed to run for a set period, delivering exact amounts of sulphur mix to the bin.
“With a turn of a tap the fresh water is pumped into a bucket where the sulphur is mixed in. Turn another tap and the sulphur mix is sucked into the sulphur tank,” Matt explains.
Sulphur dioxide is a preservative used in winemaking because of its antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
“Almost all grape bins receive a dose of sulphur. This is normally administered by operator getting out of the cabin, mixing the sulphur in a bucket, stepping up onto the trailer and pouring the dose into the bin,” he says.
“This presents a number of OH&S risks, like having foot traffic around a forklift loading area and personal sulphur exposure… it’s also time-consuming and can deliver inconsistent doses.”
Matt and Jason have now built three sulphur dosing units on Treasury Wine Estates’ Wrattonbully vineyards.
“As the remotes have four functions, all three of the units can be operated by the same remote. We have set up one unit that sits on a ute using the battery for power and the other two units are stand alone and use a 240V/12V converter allowing them to be plugged into 240V power,” Matt says.
“It took five minutes to add sulphur the old way and now eight seconds the new way… not to mention the operators are very happy not to smell like sulphur all night,” he laughs.
Matt and Jason were presented with a trophy and $2,000 by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Leon Bignell.
Matt was also a finalist for creating a device that enables mechanical leaf plucking in cooler climate vineyards.
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