KATU: SmartVinyards technology provides real-time information about irrigation
Author: KATU News
Posted: February 2, 2018

Read the original story on KATU News.

A local startup is working to change the wine industry, save farmers around the world money and protect one of Earth’s most precious resources – all at the same time.

“Five years ago, I decided that the industry could benefit from the introduction of new technology,” said Alan Campbell, the head of SmartVineyards.

He’s been working in the dirt his whole life. He grew up helping at his family’s nursery in Michigan. He studied botany, horticulture and plant physiology in college.

After all that, his experience and knowledge has amounted to this: his smart vineyards system.

“This simple set of monitors, base and cell link can provide real-time information to a grower as he goes about his day,” Campbell said.

That’s real-time information about irrigation.

Campbell said farmers understanding how much water their crops are getting, and when, is key to solving the global question of how do farms use water as efficiently as they can while still growing the best fruits and vegetables?

“Being able to control irrigation closely allows you to control bloom, control fruit set, control canopy length, control berry size, control fruit development,” Campbell said.

The system’s sensors don’t measure water; they measure pressure at different soil depths.

Then, they communicate back to relays that send the information to the farmer.

“A grower, sitting at his desktop or in a pickup truck on his phone, can look at the data coming in every 30 minutes. Did the irrigation go on when we wanted it to? How deep is the irrigation going? Is it time to turn it off? We’ve applied enough water,” Campbell said.

The sensors are solar powered.

SmartVineyards’ first installation was at a California vineyard.

They have a testing site at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington and partnerships with six Oregon vineyards.

But despite the name, SmartVineyards isn’t just for vineyards.

“They can see we’re developing something unique in Oregon that is not available anywhere else to help growers of wine grapes, apples, cherries, hops, blueberries,” Campbell said.

SmartVineyards received funding Oregon Best, a nonprofit startup accelerator.

Portland State University’s business accelerator gave them a place to work and connected them with network mentors, investors and PSU students, research and resources.