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Vineyard Intermediate Technology [Agriculture
Posted on September 9, 2015 @ 02:09:00 PM by Paul Meagher

This year I invested in a Stihl Hedge Trimmer. I thought it might be a useful to have another option for managing vine growth in my vineyard. I ended up using it to hedge all the 4 yr old vines this year so I was quite happy with the purchase decision.

This time of year in my vineyard the vine canopy has to be cut back to create better sun exposure for the grapes so they will ripen better. Previously I used Felco hand pruners to do the job and it took alot longer to "hedge" the vines. Using a hedge trimmer is a more brutal way to manage the canopy but it is similar to how larger vineyards manage the canopy except their hedge trimmer consists of three hedge trimmers in tandem riding on wheels that mow down the top and sides of the vines as it travels overtop the vines. For a smaller vineyard that can't afford such machinery, the hedge trimmer may be a good intermediate technology. If I had to prune my vines using hand pruners I feared it wouldn't happen this year. The gas powered hedge trimmer meant I could do the job of hedging 5 rows of vines (approx 450 vines) in a day rather than occupying myself for a few days with the job. Plus it made the job more enjoyable because progress was faster, it is a good aerobic workout, and the technology can be mastered better with practice.

The Stihl Hedge Trimmer is a bit over 9 lbs in weight so you can work with it for awhile without getting tired out. By the end of a day of hedge trimming my forearm was cramping up so I don't recommend picking it up and hedging for a day if you don't have to. The hedge trimmer uses a sickle mower type head for hedging. Because it is a sickle mower you can also use it to mow down grass and weeds if you need to although a whipper snipper is a much better tool if you plan to do alot of grass/weed trimming. I ran into a big area of thistles as I was hedging and used the hedge trimmer to take these out. You can use the hedge trimmer to clean up vine and vegetation when you run into vegetation clumps that a whipper snipper would have a hard time with. It is a vegetation cutting multi-tool.

In the video below I am demonstrating how I use the hedge trimmer to hedge some grape vines. I don't profess to be an expert as this is my first time using it. I'm also winging most of this vineyard stuff. There was only 1 YouTube video on using a manual hedge trimmer on grape vines and it only shows him cutting a bit from the bottom of the vines. Maybe this humble video will help small-scale organic vineyard owners decide whether a hedge trimmer is a worthwhile investment. I should note that a problem with this approach is that I cut into the trellis wires quite a few times and had to splice them back together. Because my trellis wires are fairly loose this gave me an opportunity to tighten them so I generally wasn't that bothered by this but some vineyard owners might find this unacceptable. If you work more slowly and carefully and are not too tired while working, this problem can be reduced but probably not eliminated.

Hedge trimmers, whipper snippers, and power saws are examples of intermediate technology that I use quite a bit on the farm. These are pieces of equipment that are affordable (don't have to take out a loan to purchase), require manual labor to operate, increases self-reliance, and can be used to create income if you are so inclined.

The term "intermediate technology" was coined by Fritz Schumacher and was popularized in his classic book "Small is Beautiful". Nowadays we generally use the term appropriate technology to refer to the same types of technology. I find myself using Schumacher's original "intermediate technology" terminology because it doesn't carry the same moral connotation that "appropriate" does and it better situates the technology as intermediate between personal use and industrial use, the realm of intermediate technology.

I'm glad this intermediate technology investment worked out. When they do work out they reduce work load, make monotonous jobs easier to do, increase productivity, increase self-reliance, and make larger projects more feasible. I'll suggest a more general conclusion and claim that successful entrepreneurship involves making good intermediate technology investments. Intermediate technology investments are affordable, productivity improving, involve a manual component, improve self-reliance, and can help you generate income. Entrepreneurs need to be investing in the equivalent of hedge trimmers to cope with the demands of a growing business, otherwise you may get overwhelmed as the workload associated with growth increases. As a startup you don't want to go overboard and take out large loans to operate (unless you have the growth to justify it) so intermediate technology type investments can often give a startup more bang for their buck until further growth necessitates larger investments for more industrial scale technologies.

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