This is an excerpt from a video I directed, and shot by one of my all-time favorite news video journalists, Rick Greenwell, back in the summer of 2003. We we’re looking for interesting uses of Wi-Fi, the wireless Internet technology at the time known also as 802.11b. Some pals inside Intel Labs tipped us to the wireless sensor technology research they were doing at Cameron Winery, where Wi-Fi radio chips were built into sensors monitoring temperature, moisture and other things. Part of the vineyard was turned into a wireless hotspot so these sensors could regularly transmit live data from the vineyard to an Internet site where the vineyard owner and researchers could check into conditions and spot any areas that needed care.
This video snippet was featured in a news report about One Unwired Day, a day celebrated across the U.S. in late 2003, when Wi-Fi hotspots were popping up in all kinds of interesting public and private places.
Fast forward to this audio Podcast Future Lab: Measuring Vineyard Yields. I was interested in the back story of this Podcast, where winemakers from Wente Vineyards were using technology but seemed to be somewhat scepticle about using “advanced technologies.”
This Podcast brought to mind my experience years ago with the Intel Lab researchers, and talking with the chief winemaker of Cameron Vineyards. This was the inspiration that led me to explore the role of innovation in vineyards, for grape growers and winemakers. Old wine regions are facing big competition from new wine regions and new winemakers from around the world. Some follow rules, regulations and traditions while others seem more willing to embrace technology as a possible booster to runnign a more efficient vineyard to exploring new winemaking techniques.
While many winemakers around the world have been experimenting with new approaches such as chemistry to fine-tune the taste of wine, computer technologies like wireless sensors are being used to control irrigation of some vineyards. Recently, researchers have been putting computer vision technologies to work in vineyards, believing that one day winemakers might even be able to use their mobile phones to actually see and help manage their crops.
Predicting a crop’s yield has long been a common practice among grape growers, but a few, like Wente Vineyards in California, consider it an exact science.