Low Cost Sensing and Assessment of Grapevine Canopy Density for Improved Grape Production and Quality

Period of Performance: 06/03/2015 - 12/31/2015

$99.9K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Moai Technologies, LLC
MAPLE GROVE, MN 55369
Firm POC
Principal Investigator

Research Topics

Abstract

This project will develop and test a solution that will provide grapevine canopy density measures using low-cost off-the-shelf LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors and intelligent processing. It will be affordable, usable by vineyard workers with minimal training, and have high diagnostic value to the vineyard manager who is responsible for making canopy management decisions and for the quality of the crop. As wine exports continue to increase from low cost countries such as Chile and Argentina, the U.S. wine industry must find ways to stay competitive. This will be even more important in the future as the prospect of a rapidly growing Chinese wine industry producing and exporting high quality wines becomes a reality. One way the wine industry in the U.S. can maintain its place in the market is to leverage technology and automation that both reduces the amount of labor required for grape production and increases the quality of the grape crop leading to higher quality wines. Grapevine canopy management is perhaps the most critical task in the production of uniformly high quality grapes and is directly related to wine quality. Also, good canopy management practices result in less disease, reducing the need for fungicide sprays. Thinning the canopy by means of hedging, topping, and leaf removal can be done by machinery. However, in current practice, the task of evaluating the vine canopy so that thinning can be done at exactly the right time and to the right extent, is manual and labor-intensive. The proposed system will greatly reduce the amount of labor required to assess the canopy density in a large commercial vineyard by largely automating the task with tractor-mounted sensors and automated data analysis. It will allow an entire vineyard canopy to be mapped with just one pass of a tractor and pinpoint especially problematic areas that should be the focus of management tactics. It will also help to reduce the amount of pesticides used in U.S. vineyards, by reducing conditions in the vineyard that foster grape fungus development.