GROWER-STORIES

Pillitteri Estates Winery

Background

My name is Jamie Slingerland and I am the Director of Viticulture for Pillitteri Estates Winery in picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake. We are the largest Estate producer of Icewines in the world. My job is to grow healthy grape vines and produce the highest quality grapes as possible. I presently grow 14 varieties of grapes for table wines and Icewines that have produced over 800 award winning wines in the last 25 years. These varieties include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Vidal, Viognier, Shiraz, Sangiovese, Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara.

Weather is a critical factor to vine survival and grape quality. Icewine harvest and fruit bud survival are determined by often a couple of degrees Celsius, timing is critical. I have been using a temperature monitored cabled system that would dial my cellphone when particular temperatures are reached.  The problem is that these machines can only access those areas that can connect to electricity/phone, require a dedicated phone line, be a significant distance by cable from buildings that influence temperatures, the extended cables get damaged from farm equipment and portability is difficult.  With our one vineyard one kilometer in distance I have found significant temperature variations from the one end by the buildings to the other end and especially in the low spots of that vineyard.  When it comes time to turn all my wind machines on, to warm up the air, it takes a minimum of an hour and I need to determine through technology which location is a priority rather than rely upon habit or “a feeling what is best”.  As for picking Icewine, I need to know what the temperature of the grapes that are in the field I am harvesting and to be able to easily move the remote device within that field rather than have temperature monitoring a kilometer/more away or leaving my harvester to constantly check manually.

Action

We made the choice to add two ConnectedCrops Weather Stations. Because the ConnectedCrops solution works wirelessly and is battery powered with solar back-up, we can move these Weather Stations from one field to another whenever we want without the need for electricity, phone lines or extended cables. This has enabled us to more accurately find which vineyard or block is colder, determine which wind machine to start first and to monitor grape temperatures while harvesting Icewine.

We can now check on our smartphone the precise temperature for any of the fields.  We have also set up alerts on an app for certain temperature readings to know when to go to the field and call in staff. These alerts often occur in the middle of the night or early morning in the winter, spring and fall. Also, critically, we can locate sensors from top to bottom of any wind machine or tower for the app to let us know if there is regular temperature inversions or rapid ones like we experienced with the Polar Vortexes a couple of years back. All it takes is a few seconds of cold weather to lose our crops.

RESULT

I now know more accurately and immediately, my temperatures to determine when we have to start/end wind machines or pick Icewine. Best of all, because of it’s inherent mobility, I can travel to any destination in the world that has a cell signal, be out for dinner with friends and enjoy life a little better with a quick look at my app from ConnectedCrops Weather Stations. – Jamie Slingerland, CROWNED 2015 GRAPE KING.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

I now know more accurately and immediately, my temperatures to determine when we have to start/end wind machines or pick Icewine.

Jamie Slingerland

Inversion
Measurement Solution

Advanced Temperature Measurement

The Inversion Measurement Solution with dual high-precision temperature sensor technology allows growers to measure air temperature at two different heights (fruiting zone/ top of canopy) to address frost protection and temperature inversion in the field.  This allows you to see changes at each height and evaluate inversion, radiation-cooling, canopy temperature and other factors. This data can be critical to risk aversion when using wind machines or other means of protecting the crops.

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