Grape expectations as smart agriculture experts lead quest for better wine

25 Mar 2019

Image: © Arkady Ten/

Smart climate tools, supercomputers and sensors could give us cheaper wine that tastes better.

An Irish-led research project aims to harness the power of supercomputers to help vineyards across the globe improve grape quality and yields.

If successful, the project could lead to better-tasting and potentially cheaper wine.

‘Agriculture is a high-volume business often plagued by low operational efficiency’

The Climate Smart Predictive Models project led by the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG)  at Waterford Institute of Technology is just one of nine real-life case studies being monitored across the crop, fishing and livestock industries in 14 countries.

Sensors are being placed in vineyards in Spain, and the data they produce is being fed to a supercomputer that tracks the impact of climate change and sets off early warning alerts for frost and other potentially devastating weather events for vines.

Smart agriculture

Man in striped shirt with arms folded standing in front of a green wall and a window.

Dr Steven Davy, TSSG. Image: Patrick Browne

“This is a great example of the use of ICT for smart agriculture, and in particular the use of supercomputers to crunch large quantities of data that can help improve future farming practices,” said Dr Sasitharan Balasubramaniam, director of research at TSSG.

The project is part of the €14m EU-funded Cybele programme, which sees farmers, consultants and technology experts working hand in hand over three years to slash food waste, improve animal welfare, and boost the quality and yield in food production across the EU.

Cybele is examining five crop-based case studies as well as four in livestock – two of which involve fish and the other two in pig rearing. Other strands of the project look at optimum protein-rich soya production, reducing potential pollution from surplus fish food and boosting animal welfare in pig farming.

“A third of food produced across the world is lost or wasted every single day,” explained Dr Steven Davy of TSSG. “This has a massive economic and environmental impact.

“Agriculture is a high-volume business often plagued by low operational efficiency. One of the main roadblocks is that many farmers aren’t very tech-focused. We’re now giving farming consultants the tools to bridge the gap between technology and farmers.

“We routinely rely on multibillion-euro supercomputers for DNA sequencing, weather predicting and more. They crunch in seconds the data we will collect across the crop and livestock projects, using satellites, drones, sensors and more. Analysing the findings could traditionally take weeks.

“Our ultimate aim under the Horizon 2020-funded Cybele project is to produce technology that will revolutionise farming, reduce scarcity and increase food supply, significantly boost animal welfare, and bring social economic and environmental benefits,” Davy added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years