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Audio postcards: Farming in real time | MIT Technology Review


Pinot Grigio really does make a white wine and it won’t have some varieties in California, uh, being a pretty popular variety that we actually make purple grapes to make white wines. So my name is Dirk Heuvel and I’m the Vice President of Vineyard Operations here at the McManis family vineyard.

My family is really rooted here, really doing almond farming. And some people say almonds, we say in Ripon, and we say, almonds.

I feel, if like my dad or grandpa are trying to adopt this technology, it’s totally possible. I think there’s going to be a big culture shock for them. I still think they don’t fully understand it, but they are seeing the results of it. So I think that’s the most important thing — we can show them that it’s working and how it’s working for us.

I will say today, I feel that we are growing grapes of better quality than we were 30 years ago. You know, just adapting a lot of this aerial imagery, modern irrigation technology, drip system technology, you know, you can fertilize through a drip system. And you can actually look at the pictures on your phone and you can really pinpoint going out and walking to a particular vine. You know, it could be a dead vine, shown on the aerial image. You can use technology and walk right into a specific area. You know, just being able to identify areas, using GPS. We can ask the field testers to do a field review now and on their app they can actually drop and identify where we might have a bug problem that we can encountered, you know, aphids problem, areas that need to be addressed. And that really allows us to go through and just cite the specific treatment. Instead of dealing with the entire vineyard, we can only deal with specific areas.

Jennifer: Like five or seven years ago, half of farm workers don’t use smartphones.

Dirk Heuvel: YES.

Jennifer: So if people are dropping pins it is…

Dirk Heuvel: YES. You know, 30 years ago, to make a phone call, you had to drive in a town or go home to call your gardener to do the job. And now it’s almost like farming in real time. Now we can make a quick decision. And one of the big advantages of using variable rate apps is that you only apply the amount of nutrients or supplements needed for a specific area. So before we adapt this variable rate technology, we’ll drive down a row and we’ll put in a consistent amount of modification, whether it’s gypsum, lime, earth, sulfur , we will apply that amount evenly over the entire vineyard. We now realize that going through and using this rate of change technology is that we can cut the modifications needed by 20 to 30% on a particular vineyard, just by applying Use the right amount of nutrients and not excess where they are not needed



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