Innovating in response to the California drought

Posted By Adam Beak In Your Business | No Comments

As agricultural businesses across the West adapt to the challenge of growing in a time of drought, the wine industry is increasingly turning to innovation for solutions.

Closeup on a row of 4 grapevines in a vineyard, with hoses and water pipes visible near the ground. [1]Some of the most exciting innovations we’ve seen here in the Premium Wine Group have been around the irrigation process. Many vineyard managers are beginning to integrate technology into the growing process to monitor the specific amount of water each vine needs. New tools make it possible to access this information — often remotely — and deliver through micro-emitters the exact amount of moisture required by each plant.

Fruition Sciences [2] is on the vanguard of this movement, and we are hopeful about the potential of similar strategies being adopted more broadly in the future.

For example, E. & J. Gallo Winery, winner of the 2014 Vintage Report Innovation Award presented by Bank of the West, has collaborated with IBM on a prototype irrigation system that can deliver different amounts of water across a vineyard blocks where soil conditions — and thus water needs — are variable.

The strategy, called Variable Rate Irrigation, adjusts the distribution of water based on the spatial variability in soil properties. The prototype allowed Gallo to fine-tune water distribution within a vineyard block to account for the various soil compositions within that block. Compared with the conventionally irrigated blocks used as a control, the blocks using Variable Rate Irrigation presented the dual advantage of increased yield and decreased water use.

Through the Vintage Report Innovation Award [3] presented by Bank of the West, the Premium Wine Group hopes to amplify the dialogue about innovations like these that can have a broad impact on our industry. We congratulate E. & J. Gallo Winery and IBM on their recent win, and we look forward to contributing to the broader conversation about the exciting spaces where wine-making and innovation intersect.

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