Can Technology Produce a Better Bottle of Wine?

Hahn Family Wines in Salinas brings IoT to the farm with a Verizon AgTech partnership.

Startups aren’t the only companies making advancements in agtech in Salinas—many major growers in the region are investing in innovative programs and technologies that are making their farms smarter, more efficient and more productive. One of these companies is Hahn Family Wines, a Salinas Valley staple that’s been selling wines from its estate vineyards since 1980. Hahn Winery is using smart sensors to monitor the health of its vineyard and apply resources like water exactly where they’re needed.

Left to right: Philip Hahn, Chairman of Hahn Family Wines; Nicky Hahn, founder of HFW; Gaby Hahn, founder of HFW; Caroline Hahn.

Hahn Family Wines began using sensor technology in 2010, but the technology was too expensive for Hahn to implement in large quantities. Only one sensor could be used per 100 acres, which meant a lack of data to guide decision-making in the field. In 2015, a perfect solution came in the form of a perfect partner: Verizon. The multimillion dollar tech company and Hahn made a deal—Verizon would test its in-field sensors, aerial drones and on-site weather station in Hahn’s fields, and the winery would experience first-hand the value of Verizon’s 4G connections on an Internet of Things platform.

 

Now equipped with hundreds of sensors and a weather station, the winery has the ability to track key measurements such as vine health, sun exposure and irrigation leaks. With precision data and analytics to back their decision-making, the winemakers were able to cut costs, use less water and make more efficient use of chemical sprays and materials. Additionally, the winery’s workforce could focus its attention on vineyard-wide problems rather than on individual anomalies.

Andy Mitchell is director of viticulture for Hahn Family Wines. He oversees all vineyard operations, and was critical to the process of putting this AgTech in place.

Paul Clifton is director of winemaking for Hahn Family Wines. He’s working his 14th vintage at this winery.

In a recent story for Wired magazine, director of viticulture Andy Mitchell shared, “With our soil sensors we’re measuring how far down that moisture is going and if it’s gone out the bottom of the soil. Then we know we’ve put on too much water so we can cut back. It really helps us fine-tune our application methods.”

With these solutions, the winery is now squeezing every last drop out of its 1,110 acres, and is even becoming a highly-rated tourist attraction in the area. Thanks in part to its revolutionary use of technology, Hahn Family Wines is developing into a respected name in the agtech innovation space—and is poised to be a leader for other businesses and farms that might hope to emulate their success.

You can watch a video from Verizon to see the science in action.

Photos courtesy of Hahn Family Wines

 

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