Our North Star

In 2022, NGRA engaged a strategic planning professional, Randy Harrington of Strategic Arts & Sciences, to lead us through a process of planning for the next three to five years of growth and evolution—to NGRA 2.0, as one Board member put it. But in working on our strategic plan and revisiting the data that informed our Board members’ deliberations about it, it struck me that one constant shines through: the value of research…and of NGRA to the industry.

In the surveys Randy conducted of Board members, non-NGRA-member industry representatives and members of the grape research academic community, there was overwhelming support for the statement, “Scientific research has never been more important to the grape and wine industries.” Respectively, 100% of non-member, 94% of academic and 89% of Board respondents agreed or strongly agreed. Further, there was strong support for NGRA and the work we do:

  • 71% of academics agreed or strongly agreed that “Without organizations like NGRA, grape research would be less relevant and/or would have a harder time getting support.”
  • 77% of non-members agreed or strongly agreed that “NGRA provides a useful service for the grape and wine industry.”
  • 85% of Board members agreed or strongly agreed that “Our growing research portfolio is evidence that NGRA is on the right path.”

And in verbatim comments and interviews (all responses were relayed anonymously), they elaborated about a future shaped by scientific advances. In his summary of respondents’ input, Randy shared a quote from a researcher, talking about the scientific revolutions that have occurred in their career. “Farms I work with have gone from zero robots to 12. Robots don’t get tired and can spot disease early on,” they said, illustrating how robotics (and AI) is shaping viticulture, nearly in real time. “Robotics will revolutionize the way we grow grapes.” And with a nod toward the efficiencies gained by non-human labor, the scientist added, “It may even help the mom-and-pop grape growers the most.”

As Randy wrote, “This quote caught my ear. Both because scientific revolutions are generally rare, but also because they establish the urgency for substantial strategic course changes. It is not just the NGRA that is changing, it’s the whole world. This quote suggests that the pace and methodologies driving grape science will deepen and accelerate.” And the who and how and where the advances land may be surprising and even counterintuitive. It’s up to us to stay not only relevant, but attendant and even prescient.

Indeed, as we close out 2022 and move into 2023 with a new strategic plan (to be ratified by our Board of Directors at our annual meeting on January 23), change is on the horizon. But grape research—or more specifically, our mission to advance the grape and wine industry through science—remains our north star.

Donnell Brown
NGRA President
December 30, 2022