Vintners raise glass to remote monitoring

Vintners and vine growers have been working for centuries to create the perfect grape for the perfect glass of wine. Now wireless technology is set to help them. In a research project in Panzano in Chianti in Tuscany, Italy, the remote monitoring of organic vineyards is proving beneficial.

Ericsson's vision of a world with 50 billion connected devices by 2020 means that almost everything will be connected, from our mobile phones and TV sets to our transportation and health care facilities.

Agriculture is just one of the sectors in which mobile broadband and machine-to-machine communication can increase productivity, while delivering environmental benefits.

Several vineyards in Panzano are part of the remote monitoring research project, aimed at finding the best organic farming methods for producing good-quality wine.

Ruggero Mazzilli, project leader at Panzano, says: "We can use remote monitoring thanks to wireless sensors in the vineyard to effectively reduce the way we use pesticides."

Panzano winemaker Luca Orsini and his family make Chianti Classico in their Le Cinciole organic vineyard. Taking care of the environment in the wine-making process is vital for the Orsinis, who now utilize a mobile technology solution.

"For me, it is important how I produce the wine," Luca says. "It's an important aspect of my life. This year, we decided to introduce this new technology, VineSense, in our vineyard to control many factors. This system is very important to us because it allows us to control the vines in real time."

VineSense is a wireless monitoring system with sensors in the vines that send information through a GPRS system. Vine growers can access the data online. The mobile technology solution can help them to save water and reduce the use of pesticides.

Davide Di Palma, product manager at Netsens, the company that developed VineSense, says: "VineSense gives farmers a tool to help them decide when, and how often, to intervene with chemicals or pesticides. It also allows farmers to control water, soil moisture and irrigation. This is done with great accuracy because you take measurements exactly where you need to."

Luca says: "This contrast between high technology and low technology is… funny. To preserve a traditional system of production, sometimes you need new technology."

Mazzilli says: "Bio agriculture is not, and should not be seen as, a return to the past. We cannot use the same models as our grandparents, which were a result of poverty. To make this more appealing to young people today, we can use technological innovations which help save energy and teach them new skills."