Building up the PV Evidence Base

In June 2021, with our colleagues at the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, we hosted the ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture (PV) Symposium. Kicking off the full day of Zoom-based conference proceedings, Rob Bramley, Senior Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) in Australia, teed up the value proposition for precision farming. The basic promise of precision ag, he said, stems from the premise that land is variable; understanding that variability and its limitations to production has worth. That is, by applying knowledge of vineyard variability (gleaned from sensors, decision support systems and other tech), you can reduce inputs and/or direct them more effectively, create product streams or enable other product differentiation, improve your sustainability efforts, and ensure that a shrinking labor pool can work smarter and more efficiently.

But as Rob and other speakers observed, the focus of precision viticulture has been on the development of technology (“solutions looking for problems,” as he described), and growers are rightfully reluctant to invest in or adopt things they don’t fully understand. As NASA Harvest’s Alyssa Whitcraft said in her talk, “We need to build up our evidence base” for what works.

And so, we bring you the ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture Demo Day on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, in California’s Salinas Valley, where you can see PV in action.

As I write this, we’re confirming the list of demos we’ll do, but these are the broad brushstrokes of this day-long, in-person tour:

  • Scheid Family Wines: Tony Stephen and Craig Winn will focus on how they collect and leverage data in their “Tech-Enabled Vineyard” (the title of Tony’s talk). Parabug, HeavyConnect and Tule Technologies are some of the tech they’ll share.
  • Monterey Pacific: Steve McIntyre will talk about “Balancing Crop Size, Labor and Technology” in the vineyard’s high-wire (and high wind) system. Doug Beck will show how the WeedIt weeder and GUSS (Global Unmanned Spray System) help them deal, precisely, with weeds and other unwanteds.
  • Valley Farm Management: Over lunch, Jason Smith will apply the concepts of precision management to the continuum “From Field to Workforce,” including labor management apps, and payroll and supply systems. Three to four in-field demos of precision equipment will take place in this premium chardonnay vineyard.
  • Tanimura & Antle: As one of the country’s largest row-crop operations, T&A is all about precision. Brian Antle and Brent Shedd will show a PlantTape seeding machine and Stout Smart Cultivator—enviable technologies that point to what’s possible for grape. Share your thoughts with your tour guides and fellow attendees at the closing reception here.

Check your calendar to see if you’re free on April 13, then head over to the ASEV website for ticket and hotel information. We hope you’ll be there to help “build up the evidence base” for what works in precision viticulture!

Donnell Brown