Solar-Powered Tech: Lighting Up the Vineyards


Light was crucial in the creation of the universe, and  continues to illuminate everything in life. Today, it’s being used in the creation of another thing most people love: wines.

Tech-ing Over Winemaking

Sun is inModern winemakers and businesses have a growing range of new tools they use to improve the quality of their grapes and wines at nearly every level. From improving grapevine irrigation, to machine harvesting and DNA fingerprinting.

Many of today’s winemakers are more than just growers and marketers, they’re also part farmer, scientist, tech geek, and artist all rolled into one.

In California, for example, drones are flying high to take grape growing to new heights. More and more wine estates are relying on machines for harvest and juice extraction. Technology has even taken over wine storage, with Singapore Wine Vault and other related businesses offering modern storage services for wine collections and portfolios.

And now, some winemakers are turning to the sun to improve their grapes and wines.

A Bright Future with Solar

A number of winemakers in California and other wine-growing regions have recently embraced the power of the sun, turning to solar-powered technology to monitor and maintain their grapes and wines.

A company called Fruition Sciences is one of the pioneers pushing solar-powered tech for winemaking. In an article on The Napa Valley Register, Fruition co-founder Thibaut Scholasch explained that the cellar is often where wines are made, but more and more, “technology is helping vintners take a plant-based approach to winemaking.

Fruition deploys its high-tech sensors to numerous vineyards around the world, most of them in California’s Napa Valley. These help greatly at monitoring the vines and its produce. Solar panels power the systems, which communicates with the cloud wirelessly via the internet. The data is then collected, analysed, and correlated with other measurements of quality.

Data will then be used to alert vintners via an app notification so they can take the appropriate actions.

“Our monitors evaluate the vine’s hydration, and through our years of data collection we are able to improve grape quality and vine health at nearly every level. Beyond that we help our clients refine their irrigation schemes, often reducing the amount of water they use, therefore saving a valuable resource,” Scholasch was quoted by The Register as saying.

Every Bit Helps

Ovid Winery in Napa Valley is one of the first users of Fruition’s technology. Ovid’s Austin Peterson explains that grape farming and winemaking aren’t exact sciences, but some data sets do help, especially in making several processes more efficient.

“[Fruition’s] sensors take readings every 15 minutes, which provides near complete insight into the vine’s behavior, allowing us to know if we are on the right path or when we might need to adjust our practice,” Peterson said.

Apart from measuring grapevine hydration, the technology can also test and evaluate nearly everything else about the vineyard. Among the things it monitors is photosynthetic and evaporation rates (measured through satellite and drone imagery), and weather conditions and patterns (through readings from micro-climate weather stations).

The Little Details

What makes this technology extremely valuable to vintners is that it’s great for winemakers who are having difficulties managing multiple vineyards.

California, for example, is in its fifth year of drought. The Fruition technology helps greatly in ensuring the vines and grapes are not affected by the heat and poor irrigation

Winemakers can use their mobile device to start, stop, and adjust water pumps remotely. The user-friendly software lets growers toggle valves to adjust water flow in precise increments, all through the easy tap of the screen or a button.

This increased precision saves growers a lot of resources. In many cases where irrigation is an issue, it allows users to irrigate less without compromising vine growth. In some cases, it even allows for the dry farming of vineyards.

Farming When the Light Goes Down

Solar is the new powerWhen it comes to mechanical harvesters, there are new technologies that help with picking the grapes at night, which lessens the stress for the grape pickers. There are also machine harvesters equipped with optical sorters that can sort each berry, throwing away the underripe or flawed ones.

ETS, Wine XRay, and other similar companies even have tools that take the link between vines and wines to a whole new level. These companies offer a suite of evaluative analyses for examining various elements in grapes and wines.

“Our technology allows winemakers to see what is going on with their wines as they ferment before any negative issues arise,” ETS Wine Labs co-owner Gordon Burns was quoted as saying.

“It used to be we could evaluate why a wine failed after the fact, but now we can head off many issues before they become problems. We use various techniques to help provide a window into the process. For example, our DNA-fingerprinting tools allow a winemaker to get a handle on which yeast or other microbes are present and active,” he continued.

Tech in Grapes

One thing that’s sure about all these technology is that these emerge to make wine better for everyone, from the grape farming and winemaking, to production and consumption. Just like certain wines, the more these technologies grow, the better they’ll be.