Audio Postcard: Agriculture in Real Time | MIT Technology Review

Pinot Grigio actually makes a white wine and it gained a few varieties in California which, uh, is a pretty common variety that we actually make with purple grapes that make a white wine. So my name is Dirk Heuvel and I’m the Vice President of Wine Operations here at McManis Family Vineyards.

My family kind of put down roots here, growing almonds. And some people say almonds, we say Ripon, and we say, say, almonds.

I feel like it was like my dad or my grandfather was trying to adopt this technology, absolutely. I think there would be a huge culture shock for them. I still think they don’t quite understand it, but they see the results. So I think that’s the most important thing — that we’re able to show them that it works and how it works for us.

I will say that today I feel like we are growing better quality grapes than 30 years ago. You just have to adapt a lot of that aerial imagery, modern irrigation technology, drip system technology, you know, being able to fertilize through drip systems. And you can actually look at the imagery on your phone and you can actually identify going out and walking to a specific vine. You know, it could be a dead vine, which shows up on aerial imagery. You can use technology and enter a specific area directly. Being able to identify areas, you know, using GPS. We can get ground checkers out there now and on their app they’re able to detect and identify where we might have mite issues where we might have, you know, leafhopper issues, areas that need to be treated. And that actually allows us to just review and quote a specific treatment. Instead of treating a whole block of vines, we are able to treat only specific areas.

Jennifer: It was only five or seven years ago that half of farm workers weren’t using a smartphone.

Dirk Heuvel: Yeah.

Jennifer: So if people drop pins, it’s…

Dirk Heuvel: Yeah. You know, 30 years ago, to make a phone call, you had to drive into a, into a city or go home and call your irrigator to do things. And now it’s, it’s almost, it’s like real-time farming. Now we can make decisions on the fly. And one of the great benefits of using variable rate applications is that you only apply the amount of nutrients or amendments needed for a specific area. So before adapting this variable rate technology, we would go down a row and put in a constant amount of amendments, whether it was gypsum, lime, soil, sulfur, we would apply that amount evenly throughout the vine block. Now we realize that by using this variable rate technology, we could reduce the amendments needed by 20-30% on a specific vineyard block, simply by applying the right amounts of nutrients where they are needed and not overlapped. . where they are not needed

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