Innovation and Wine in UK – Interview with dr. David Green

Surely, UK it isn’t first country you have in your mind when the topic is wine, but it does if we talk about technology and innovation.
I contacted mr Euan Wemyss, by Press Office of the University of Aberdeen after reading his post about use of technology in wine producing in UK, and he was so kind to link me with dr. David R. Green, for some questions.

University and rows

The interest of Great Britain in winegrowing is relatively recent; the climate change, with the rise of temperatures, despite it was a bad thing for Earth, is moving to North the tipical crops of southern zones.

aberdeenI don’t believe that in Scotland they will be able to produce Trebbiano, Vermentino or Fiano d’Avellino, but British have a wider vision of technology, and I think that to have not an hard oenological tradition make them free to use the techs that some Italian or French winegrowers don’t.
Of course, as David says, the interest in use of technology is greater in those country, like Australia, where importance of wine economy is high, so to justify tech investments.
A portrait well wear for Italy, and I ask myself: why we don’t?

Actually, Britain knows rows and vineyards since Roman Age, but the recent interest and production began in the late 50s and then took off in the mid 1970s/early 1980s and has expanded over this time until the present from around 212 vineyards to 400 plus with a good quality of produced wines, expecially sparkling ones.

We have vineyards in Scotland, in Yorkshire, the SE of Britain and in the SW of Britain; different grapes, whites, reds and rose as well as good sparkling wines in the SE and SW. Many French companies are now buying land to establish vineyards in the SE of Britain because with climate change the SE is becoming more suitable than the Champagne region of France. In the SW of Britain in Cornwall a warmer climate later in the season is actually viewed as being better for the final stages of the grapes and harvesting….

Technological Vineyards in Britain

Today in Britain there are 2000 acres/800 hectars of vineyards, and likely modern technology can help British winegrowers in production, mainly about sparkling wines that today are more fashion than others, thanks also to kind of soil.

green-pic1

Moreover, these new productions improve all those activities linked with wine, like wine tourism and fine dining. Many winegrowers are young, but this isn’t a main factor.  

Some are – but not all – and use of these technologies is very much driven by the individual, their finances, whether they are driven by such technologies and have the vision.

Technology can, and actually is doing, help greatly British viticulture and vineyard management, from plant new vines with help of GPS systems, to UAVs monitoring, to digital data collection at the ground level, and mapping of the vineyards to aid in record keeping. NDVI (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index) aerial imagery can help vineyard managers to monitor the health and status of the vines and to aid in application of fertilisers, irrigation and pesticides.

Precision Viticulture (PV) can aims to help vineyard managers manage the plant and crop better and hopefully in such a way that it helps to improve the profitability of the vineyard and winery; many will through the provision of data and information that helps the vineyard manager to plan and make decisions sooner rather than later, and to minimise costs of management e.g. only needing to apply fertiliser to specific areas of the vineyard (hotspots) rather than the whole vineyard – which can be a big cost saving

Saving and Precision

Sure, some of these technologies were a lot expensive until a few years ago, mainly for little wineries, and they needed some expert in the use, but now they are simpler and based on technology all we have in our smartphones.

green-pic2GIS is getting cheaper, there are Opensource software packages now, and online interfaces to GIS (Geographical Information System) that provide simple basic tools that allow vineyard managers to begin to store and retrieve information; and of course there is Google Earth.
Now there are UAV RTF (Ready to Fly), and cameras low cost, so fast evolution of technology is a plus for winegrowers to do many things at a right price. And all of this, will push to build new ICT infrastructures and geolocalization services, making job simpler.

I have been working on vineyards and viticulture management since my postgraduate days and with my background in GIS and remote sensing I proposed some of the earliest uses of radio controlled model aircraft to gather remotely sensed data in a vineyard, which has carried on to the present day and I have worked with a number of people in the UK, Poland, Canada, the USA and Switzerland to highlight the role that the geospatial technologies can have in the collection of data and information to aid in vineyard management at the scale of a small vineyard. Indeed many efforts have been via Universities though this is changing as some of the technologies available are becoming cheaper and more commonplace

This ends the interview.
It’s very interesting what dr. Green said, mainly when he highlights that new techs are becoming ever simpler and cheaper; that is a great opportunity both for wine market and for technology firms.
In my next newsletter I’ll add some links to interesting documents dr. Green shared with me.
Thanks to dr David R. Green for the time spent, and mr Euan Wemyss for his courtesy