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The connected grapevine – capillary connectivity creates compelling chardonnay
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The connected grapevine – capillary connectivity creates compelling chardonnay 

Now – taking it one step further – we have connected a number of German wineries in an effort to deliver better wine and to take some of the risk out of the grape cultivation and harvesting process. By bringing science to the art of winemaking, we are fasting approaching a business inflection point. 

The art of winemaking 

Winemaking is an art in which meticulous attention is paid to details. The right soil, sun and climate define the grape quality and the final product. On top of these basic enablers, winemakers add water and biological pesticide protection as the grapes mature on the vines, and most of this process is today labor intensive. Winemaking does become a highly controlled process once the grapes make it to the warehouse, but before that it is all about risk minimization – a game played with/against nature.

For winemakers the biggest risks are when the grapes are still on the vines: decisions on when to protect against pesticides, when to pick the leaves and finally when to pick the grapes. Today this is an art where the optimal harvest day is determined by sight, touch, smell and taste of the grapes. Scientific measures have been restricted to lag measures such as sugar (BRIX) and acid (PH) levels of the grapes.

Introduce science into the art of cultivating grapes

Today it is possible to deploy sensors to measure five key factors determining the right moment for each step in the cultivation process. Winemakers can now measure soil temperature and moisture levels, air temperature and moisture levels, as well as sun intensity. With this kind of detailed information, a winemaker can determine when it is optimal to augment the natural process and on what day it is best to harvest. These augmentation steps help cultivate the highest quality grape possible, which directly affects wine quality and the price a winemaker will get for his products. 

Behind the scenes of connected grapevines 

In our pilot projects, we have deployed five different types sensors per hectare. These sensors are connected with Low Rate Wireless Personal Area Network technology (IEEE 802.15.4 or LR-WPAN) to wireless gateways. The combination of mobile and other wireless technologies enables both coverage everywhere and the use of high accuracy sensors. Most of the applications for which these combinations are interesting require a very high security level to protect the data generated, as the data either represents competitive insights and/or is tied to commercial transactions. The capillary network connectivity bridging the capability gaps across radio technologies is a rapidly maturing tool in a mobile networks operator’s toolbox for industrial internet applications 

Connected grapevines are of multiple applications in the agricultural sector. My predictions for the future are: 

  • Premium agricultural products will embrace connectivity innovations for both quality and cost purposes. 
  • Pioneers will develop and bulletproof technology the coming two years for large-scale installations. 
  • The business model for this multi-stakeholder solution will be defined as part of the first innovative projects.
  • We can talk about giving birth to a new ecosystem in two dimensions.

About the author: Peter Linder is a Networked Society evangelist at Ericsson. He describes himself as a versatile visualizer, alliteration aficionado, movie maker and kinetic keynoter. His contributions focus on seven fields of market development: #SocietyShaping, #IndustryInnovations, #DeviceDiversification, #UnlockingUsers, #VersatileVideo, #NetworkNovelties and #BoldBusinessmodels. Peter joined Ericsson in 1991 and is currently based in Dallas, Texas.

Follow Peter on Twitter: @OneLinders

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