Technological adoption in wine production is a major lever boosting the sustainability of vineyard activities.
Galileo is quoted as having said “wine is sunlight, held together in water”. In this poetic sentence we see a fundamental influence of climate over quality and value of wine. Sunshine, i.e., solar radiation, appropriate temperature and water allow for prime grapes that, once fermented, make fine wine.
Once this nexus is understood, we know what we need to manage a wine production system and improve our bottom line, sustainably. This, however, is not enough. We need to understand the relevant scale for measurements to have meaning and inform our management decisions. Photosynthesis happens at the scale of individual cells, but we cannot (still!) measure temperature inside each cell, of each leaf, of each grapevine, in each row, of each block, of each vineyard, in each region we make wine.
Thirty years ago, farmers had only data from weather stations many kilometres away, representing regional scale but not each vineyard. Ten years ago, weather stations became cheap enough for farmers to acquire data at vineyard scale. Today, inexpensive weather sensors can be placed in each vineyard block and thermal cameras onboard drones can, in just one hour, harvest temperature and water data from large acreages at the individual grapevine scale. In just 30 years, one single point of weather data went from representing over 13.000 hectares to representing 2 square meters. This is a 65‑million-fold increase in resolution detail over land. In just 30 years…
Very soon, sensors onboard farming machinery will bring data points from individual leaves, and it is now foreseeable to bridge that last frontier to the individual cell in each leaf.
The increase in the detail of weather data allowed SOGRAPE to use more accurate rain forecasts avoiding loss of protection treatments and chemicals dispersion in the environment. Its participation in project H2020 MED-GOLD brought access to climate historical data and long-term predictions to the scale of the individual vineyard, allowing for smarter decisions to be made at plantation, improving sustainability.
Technology places the power of detail in our hands. And detail is fundamental for sustainable production and climate change adaptation.
An Article By António Graça for The Porto Protocol Foundation
Head of R&D , Sogrape Vinhos, S.A.