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07.30.2005

Motes In The Vineyard: The Next Big Thing

Start the Mission Impossible theme song and put on your night vision goggles, because spy technology is coming soon to a vineyard near you. OK maybe not spy technology per se, but a pretty cool new technology called wireless mesh sensor networks. I've written about them briefly before on Vinography, but they're apparently now ready for prime time.

A wireless mesh sensor network is basically a whole bunch of little sensors, sometimes known as "motes" or "nodes," about the size of a quarter that are placed in regular intervals anywhere from 30 to 500 feet apart in the vineyard. These sensors are wirelessly connected to the internet and to each other, and are capable of measuring temperature, moisture, and several other variables, depending on the installation. By aggregating the data from all of these sensors, vintners can get an idea of the micro-climates within the vineyard as well as the state of the overall vineyard. With more data, theoretically, comes the ability to make different decisions about when to water, fertilize, etc.

Will this make for better wine? Not sure. Like any new technology it can be used for evil as well as good. That is, I assume that winemakers and growers can get to the point where there are too many things to pay attention to or the possibility of just trying too hard. Some would say, and rightly so, we've been growing grapes pretty well for thousands of years.

Comments (3)

Kevin D wrote:
11.24.05 at 8:21 AM

There is another less expensive means of getting the same temperature microclimate profile. It uses small temperature buttons that you can put in various spots within the vineyard. They can later be collected and brought back to a computer to be read (you need to remember to label the buttons to know where each set of temperature readings came from). There is also a hand held reader that you can go collect all the data and read this. You can get directly from the supplier:

www.ibutton.com

Unfortunately no one has written a bit of software specifically for this type of agricultural purposes so you'll need to know your way around a computer to get the data out of the little buttons and put them into a spreadsheet. Still pretty cheap alternative compared to the wireless option.

Alder wrote:
11.27.05 at 3:58 PM

Kevin,

Thanks for the comment. Interesting product, though presumably, the benefit of the sensor array is that you don't have to collect the sensors every time you want to take a temperature reading, I assume that it's pretty important to know how the climate varies in the vineyard as frequently as on a daily basis, especially as it gets close to harvest.

07.28.07 at 7:02 PM

I was thinking the same thoughts some years back when I was CTO for wireless software at Oracle Corporation. I needed it for my own little vineyard in Mendocino County. Long story short: I started a company called Ranch Systems to build this specifically for vineyards. The result was a little mote that costs $195 and can take two sensors. A central box serves as base station and relays it via cellular to our servers. The software is online. It's now in use by a good number of growers, like Beckstoffer, Markham, David Bruce, and Capozzi aka Pinotblogger. (www.ranchsystems.com). Cheers, Jacob.

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