THE TECHNOLOGY to help the wine and grape community get through the 2017 vintage fits into a pocket. This week has delivered the latest news on two phone apps, one for grapegrowers and one for winemakers. One will help winemakers manage ferments in vintage 2017, the other has been designed to help grapegrowers monitor water stress in their vineyards.

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The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) has launched an online version of a Ferment Simulator –allowing winemakers to track ferments online and identify problem ferments earlier. The Ferment Simulator app stores all ferment-related data and uses algorithms to predict the progress of each ferment recorded. Warnings are provided if ferments run faster or slower than initially predicted, allowing winemakers to respond early.

The app also incorporates a modelling function, giving winemakers the option to test various actions online before making changes in the winery. Hosted on the AWRI’s WineCloud platform, the Ferment Simulator app is available free to all Australian wine producers.

“The new Ferment Simulator app will allow winemakers to manage their ferments better, avoid costly fermentation problems and access fermentation data remotely,” said Dr Eric Wilkes, AWRI Commercial Services group manager. “It is exciting to have this online tool ready for vintage 2017.”

The new Ferment Simulator app is based on the spreadsheet-format Ferment Simulator released in 2013. The app is supported by a series of video tutorials and an FAQ document, accessible from the AWRI website. Users can register to access the app at http://www.thewinecloud.com.au.

Meanwhile, a new smartphone app that helps grapegrowers measure the water status of their vines is being trialled across Australia. The portable viticultural tool has the potential to help grapegrowers make improved water management decisions for their vineyards.

Grapegrowers use a thermal camera attached to their smartphone to take images of the canopy of the grapevine. The image is analysed by the app, which calculates the vine water status.

The technology is being tested by 15 vineyards across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania for the rest of the growing season.

The Wine Australia-funded project is being led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA, in close collaboration with The University of New South Wales (UNSW).

“Water and associated pumping costs can be a significant component of the production costs for grapegrowers,” said Dr Kathy Ophel-Keller, the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) acting executive director.

“Uncontrolled water stress has the potential to reduce the yield and quality of grapes and the resulting wine, which in turn reduces the return to growers.

“The management of vine water status is a key tool for grapegrowers to regulate yield and optimise fruit quality and style.

“This new app offers grapegrowers instant feedback on the water status of their vines, and provides them with the flexibility to assess multiple blocks or sections of blocks, and to make irrigation decisions in real time.”

The 18 month project aimed to evaluate a range of smartphone-based sensing systems to develop a cheap, easy-to-use vine water status monitoring app, to assist growers to manage irrigation.

Initial trial results found the thermal camera was the easiest to use and provided accurate information.

The app was developed by UNSW and the tool is now being tested by a variety of wineries, with their feedback helping to inform the further development of the innovative technology.

The aim is to release the final version of the app later in 2017.

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