Technology in the Vineyard

Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending the MIchigan Grape Society Field Day at the Michigan State University extension site in Benton Harbor.

These extension sites are of vital importance for farmers in the area as they allow for the transfer of academic knowledge created in the university setting to transfer to practical world of real world farming and food production. And the reverse is true as well - farmers can tell the academic community what their issues are and ask them to help solve problems related to crops, climate change, and insect pests.

The art of winemaking is ancient and I tend to like the natural wines that are becoming more popular due to the desire for organic foods and beverages.

However, at yesterday's meeting, I was very impressed by some of the technology that is coming to the vineyard and how it can make life easier for the farmer while also having a positive environmental impact.

Most impressive is the use of drones to monitor crop growth and health of wine and juice grapes. The drones can be programmed to fly to specific places as well as gather information on the entire vineyard.

The data can then be translated into a variety of overhead maps which give the farmer valuable insight on issues that may be effecting the crop production such as water, fertilization, pests and diseases such as powdery mildew.

Drones used for this purpose have to be registered with the FAA and the drone operator has to have a licence to operate the drone for commercial purposes.

The drone allows the farmer to "walk the vineyard" in about 15 minutes rather than taking the whole day to get an update on the health and status of the crop.

While it does not completely eliminate the need to manage the vineyard by traditional methods, the use of this type of technology is certainly impressive and makes for a fun way of monitoring the crop and how it is developing prior to harvest!

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