Spain’s oldest vineyards — Where tradition and technology meet

Powered by CATUAV’s “Argos Mini” UAV and the MicaSense RedEdge multispectral sensor, agricultural consultants are improving traditional grapevine management at one of Spain’s oldest vineyards.
Vineyard
Roqueta Origen vineyard

Powered by CATUAV’s “Argos Mini” UAV and the MicaSense RedEdge multispectral sensor, agricultural consultants are improving traditional grapevine management at one of Spain’s oldest vineyards.

View the Atlas data from this article here.

The Vineyard

Grup Roqueta Origen maintains various cellars and vineyards in Spain, producing high quality wines for markets across the globe. Their headquarters are aptly located in the wine region of Plà de Bages, Catalonia. This was the key region for wine production during the Roman Empire, before a phylloxera (aphid) plague destroyed many of the region’s vineyards. These vineyards remained almost entirely overgrown until the 20th century, when the community began cultivating new vines and recovering traditional varieties. Flash forward to 2017 and these vineyards have produced some of the most successful wines on the market.

The Players

AgroMapping is an agronomic consulting company specializing in data analysis, interpretation and consultancy for remote sensing and precision agriculture. The Barcelona Drone Center (BCN) works closely with Roqueta Origen, flying their custom-designed fixed-wing over the vineyard. CATUAV, a UAV integrator, and service provider works with AgroMapping on their agriculture-related ventures.

Jordi Santacana
Jordi Santacana, director of CATUAV, showing the Argos Mini UAV with the MicaSense RedEdge.

The Workflow: Data Acquisition

For vineyards, timing is everything. Flights are normally performed when grapes change color and start accumulating sugars — a period called “veraison” that occurs at the beginning of August in the Mediterranean. When vineyards reach this stage, the canopy is considered to be at full growth and from this point on, reserves will be allocated for fruit ripening rather than for crop development.

Data acquisition starts after a meeting where pilot knowledge, agronomical expertise and viticulturist needs are put together in order to define the best flight plan for producing the highest quality data.

Analysis

After the flight, imagery is uploaded to MicaSense Atlas for data visualization and analysis.

Taking advantage of the high spatial resolution provided by UAV based imagery, AgroMapping classifies the data to produce homogeneous growth zones for each variety. Only vineyard vegetation pixels are included for data classification. This is especially important since different varieties and planting years introduce noise and variability that is not related to crop growth status or stress.

RGB NDVI Vineyard
MicaSense Atlas showing the Roqueta Origen vineyard where small blocks are tucked between broadleaf and needle leaf mixed stands of trees. (Left) The winemaking building (red-orange roof) is visible in the RGB image. Dense tree stands segment the small vineyard blocks. (Right) NDVI map of the area covered, highlighting variation in crop condition across the entire vineyard.
Vigor Map Vineyard
Vigor map made by Agromapping from Roqueta Origen vineyard classified in three management zones (red: low vigor, yellow: medium vigor and blue: high vigor).

Not just data, but actionable information

To provide a sound agronomical prescription, the imagery is field-validated by a team of technicians under the leadership of Dr. Fran Garcia-Ruiz, founder of AgroMapping. Only after validation can maps be accepted and/or re-classified to meet the needs of clients and their management thresholds.

Dr. Garcia-Ruiz validating imagery in the field
Dr. Garcia-Ruiz validating imagery in the field.

Classification is just the start. AgroMapping helps vineyards improve production by also analyzing the seasonal growing conditions, which often involves ground surveying. The ultimate objective is to create management zones from maps with agronomical variables. This is a successful way of providing not only data, but information growers can use. Dr. Garcia-Ruiz envisions such field maps to be used for a number of applications, such as:

  • Segmenting fields into management zones, allowing for variable rate fertilization, variable intensity pruning, and adaptive irrigation.
  • Targeting areas for vine thinning, ensuring higher quality grapes.
  • Developing specialized sampling protocols, with the goal of controlling fruit ripening, determining the optimal harvest time or performing unbiased yield estimations.

The future of this technology will likely focus on defining quality properties to help winemakers replicate specific vintages when possible.

Takeaways

UAV based remote sensing with the MicaSense RedEdge camera significantly increases the reliability of crop maps produced by AgroMapping. Reliable data facilitates more accurate map interpretation and thus more accurate crop management.

The workflow must always start with determining grower requirements, as this leads to the selection of the appropriate sensor and flight plan. Then, only by working with quality UAVs and sensors that ensure repeatable data, and insightful agronomic consultants who can help turn data into actionable information can this process be successful. Accomplishing this is key to satisfying the high standards of winemakers.

Ready for more?

See how an agronomist used a DSM and other layers to pinpoint problems in a potato pivot. Or read about how chlorophyll mapping helped a farmer identify potassium deficiency in table grapes. If you have a case study with RedEdge, Sequoia, or Atlas that you would like to showcase, please send us an email here.

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