Watching the wine with new technology
tradition, Europe’s vintners have found themselves hard pressed to
compete with the modern processes used to produce New World wines.
Steeped in tradition, Europe’s vintners have found themselves hard pressed to compete with the modern processes used to produce New World wines. Now European researchers are offering the continent’s winemaking industry the opportunity to improve quality, save water and reduce pesticide use without giving up age-old practices.
An automated wireless precision monitoring system that uses sensors to check soil moisture, air temperature and humidity is being commercialized by Italian company Netsens.
Currently in use in several Italian vineyards, Netsens’ Vine-Sense system allows vintners to accurately time harvesting, fight pathogenic attacks, cut water consumption and lower the cost of chemical treatments without even having to visit the vineyard.
“All the data gathered from the sensors is transmitted wirelessly via an Internet gateway and can be accessed by the farmer from anywhere,” explains Gianfranco Manes, the head of the Multidisciplinary Institute for Development, Research and Applications at the University of Florence, Italy.
Precision monitoring systems have gradually become more accepted in the wine industry in recent years, but most have relied on planting sensors in the vineyards and then traipsing through the fields to manually check each one.
In contrast, data from the sensors developed by Manes’ team are collected every 15 minutes and automatically analyzed to provide winegrowers with detailed information about how well their grapes are growing, how much water they need and what risks are present from fungal infections and pests in light of the air humidity, soil moisture and temperature.
The system addresses three critical issues in particular, says Mane. First, it allows farmers to use water more efficiently – knowing that 80 per cent of world water consumption goes on agriculture. Second, winegrowers know when they have to use pesticides, so instead of spraying chemicals on the vineyards every two weeks, they only do so when there is a risk to the vines. And third, they can monitor how well the grapes are developing in order to determine exactly the right time to harvest the wine.
Those production, cost and environmental benefits are immediate in the first year of the system being installed, but in the mid-term, closer monitoring also offers advantages by letting farmers identify different microclimates on their land. This helps them choose the vines best suited to different growing conditions. The upshot is better wine.
“Winegrowers have told us that they are not interested in increasing the size of the harvest but in producing better wine, which evidently boosts their revenue. Consumers, logically, also appreciate it,” Manes says.
Vine-Sense is currently in use at the Castello di Ama and Montepaldi vineyards in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy. By the end of the year, Manes expects systems to be up and running at between 10 and 15 vineyards across the country. He notes that Netsens has had inquiries from winegrowers as far away as Egypt and Jordan, where water use is a particularly critical issue.
This article comes courtesy of ICT Results, http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults .
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