Partnering with Fruition Sciences, the annual award encourages innovators to develop new cultivation methods using limited resources, most notably water.
The winner of the award was a prototype irrigation system developed by the collaboration of E. & J. Gallo and the IBM Corp. It takes the concept of the Internet of Things and demonstrates how it can affect vineyard yield where soil conditions are variable.
While the original intent of this project may have been to decrease vineyard variability, it had the beneficial side-effect of decreasing water usage. In reflecting on his work, Dr. Sanchez noted that, “The goal was to decrease vineyard variability by increasing yield in the low yielding areas of the vineyard. By dividing the 10-acre experimental section of the vineyard into 140 irrigation zones we were able to irrigate each zone according to its average vigor or vine size (via NDVI) and ended up increasing water use efficiency.”
Ridge Vineyards of Cupertino, Calif., won the inaugural Vintage Report Innovation Award for the study “The Effects of Lag-Phase Thinning on Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel.” Ridge’s viticulturist, Will Thomas, conducted the study in collaboration with Dr. James Kennedy, chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at California State University, Fresno.
The innovation award is sponsored by Bank of the West and Fruition Sciences, which on Jan. 21 hosted its Vintage Report Symposium about growing conditions during the 2013 harvest. The companies honored two other finalists for their work: Austin Peterson, winemaker at Ovid Napa Valley in Napa Valley for his study on water use, and Murphys, Calif.,-based Vineyard Concepts for its development of a bin cover to help keep grapes cool during transport.
The fourth annual technical conference, focused on the 2013 vintage, is being held by Oakland-based Fruition Sciences from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., followed by a wine tasting on Tuesday, Jan. 21 at the Westin Verasa, Napa, 1314 Mckinstry St., Napa.
The cost is $250, and includes speakers from Fruition Sciences, Washington State University, ETS Laboratories, IBM, Mike Wolf Vineyard Management Services, and a number of vineyard and winery owners. The goal of this yearly conference is to keep up with new learning and incorporate them into management practices.