An automated wireless precision monitoring system that uses sensors to check soil moisture, air temperature and humidity is being commercialised by Italian company Netsens, set up in 2005 as a spin-off from the EU-funded GoodFood project.
Currently in use in several Italian vineyards, Netsens’ Vine-Sense system allows vintners to accurately time harvesting, fight pathogenic attacks, cut water consumption and lower the cost of chemical treatments without even having to visit the vineyard.
“All the data gathered from the sensors is transmitted wirelessly via an internet gateway and can be accessed by the farmer from anywhere,” explains Gianfranco Manes, the head of the Multidisciplinary Institute for Development, Research and Applications at the University of Florence, Italy, and one of the GoodFood coordinators.
Precision monitoring systems have gradually become more accepted in the wine industry in recent years, but most have relied on planting sensors in the vineyards and then traipsing through the fields to manually check each one.
In contrast, data from the sensors developed by Manes’ team are collected every 15 minutes and automatically analysed to provide winegrowers with detailed information about how well their grapes are growing, how much water they need and what risks are present from fungal infections and pests in light of the air humidity, soil moisture and temperature.
Better for wine lovers, better for the environment
The system addresses three critical issues in particular, says Mane. First, it allows farmers to use water more efficiently – knowing that 80 percent of world water consumption goes on agriculture. Second, winegrowers know when they have to use pesticides, so instead of spraying chemicals on the vineyards every two weeks as is common today, they only do so when there is a risk to the vines. And third, they can monitor how well the grapes are developing in order to determine exactly the right time to harvest the wine.
Those production, cost and environmental benefits are immediate in the first year of the system being installed, but in the mid-term, closer monitoring also offers advantages by letting farmers identify different microclimates on their land. This helps them choose the vines best suited to different growing conditions – a procedure known as ‘microzonation’. The upshot is better wine.
“Winegrowers have told us that they are not interested in increasing the size of the harvest but in producing better wine, which evidently boosts their revenue. Consumers, logically, also appreciate it,” Manes says.
Though Italian and European winemakers have traditionally been reluctant to incorporate new technology into their ancient practices, Manes says there has been considerable interest in the system being marketed by Netsens. One key factor is price.
Deploying the sensor nodes and communications infrastructure costs €500 to €1,000 per hectare, with three or four nodes – at a cost of €280 each – needed to provide accurate and comprehensive data.
That compares to the €400 to €600 per node that it costs to install rival systems currently being marketed by US firms, Manes says. He also notes that the rival systems are not well suited to European agriculture because they require a direct communications link to the farmers’ home.
Farmers in the USA tend to live on or near their farm, whereas in Italy and much of Europe, winegrowers can be far away from their vineyards. According to Manes, this makes the internet an obvious choice for accessing the data.
Even higher quality Chianti?
Vine-Sense is currently in use at the Castello di Ama and Montepaldi vineyards in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy. By the end of the year, Manes expects systems to be up and running at between 10 and 15 vineyards across the country. He notes that Netsens has had inquiries from winegrowers as far afield as Egypt and Jordan, where water use is a particularly critical issue.
Versions of the system are evidently not limited to use in the wine industry – though it is a particularly high-value sector – and could be used to monitor other crops. The GoodFood project, which received funding under the European Union’s Sixth Framework Programme for research, also developed a range of other technologies for agricultural and food monitoring.
Among them are a range of portable devices to detect toxins, pathogens and chemicals in food, which allow tests that are currently run in a laboratory to be carried out on the farm or at the processing plant.
While these systems require further research before they will be ready to deploy commercially, Netsens is looking to rapidly expand sales of the Vine-Sense system and is seeking partners in other European countries and around the world to help it achieve that goal.
Christian Nielsen | alfa
New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge
Computer scientists use wave packet theory to develop realistic, detailed water wave simulations in real time. Their results will be presented at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference.
Think about the last time you were at a lake, river, or the ocean. Remember the ripples of the water, the waves crashing against the rocks, the wake following...
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
29.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.06.2017 | Life Sciences
29.06.2017 | Health and Medicine