The new era of viticulture: How technology is disrupting the wine industry

By Farah Khalfe Time of article published May 20, 2021

Share this article:

The wine industry is being disrupted by technology. Just like agriculture, finance, and health, viticulture is undergoing a technology transformation. A transformation that’s helping the industry shave the edges off costs, improve quality and production, refine productivity and enhance consumer engagement.

From apps that allow for real-time reviews to online wine libraries that improve purchasing decisions and improving precision in vineyard management, technology is sliding into the industry and translating complexity into efficiency.

And it could not come at a better time. South African vineyards were already losing surface area in 2019 – from 102k hectares to 93k – but the arrival of the pandemic and South Africa’s rigorous alcohol bans have had an even more serious impact.

The lockdown and limitations around alcohol sales have resulted in the industry running at a loss of R7.5 billion – a loss that neither the wine estate nor the country can afford.

DISRUPTING COMPLEXITY WITH TECHNOLOGY

The pandemic has not just impacted the South African wineries. It has created channels globally thanks to limited access to traditional sales channels and supply chains. Customers can’t get to the wineries and the wineries can’t get to the customers.

To resolve this, companies have turned to more creative technology alternatives that have translated challenges into sales. Many companies have put their business online, using digital toolkits to attract new consumers and expand into new markets. It’s a move that may see digital retain a dominant role in the wine industry for the foreseeable future thanks to its ubiquity.

The industry has also started leveraging inventory management solutions alongside online platforms to try and improve processes and approaches. A recent whitepaper found that inventory management, point of sale, eCommerce, DTC and accounting tools have become far more widespread in the industry and their use has translated into improvements in profit and productivity.

TECHNOLOGY AS A GROWTH ENABLER

Technology advancements in the wine industry go so much further than consumer engagement and productivity improvements. They are digging deep into the soil and the grape and they are optimising plant yields, lighting and plant health. Here are just some of the inventive ways that technology is redefining results for the industry:

Temperature management and control in wine transportation. The Internet of Things (IoT) has long played a powerful role in managing the supply chain, and for the wine industry this is no different. Temperatures during wine transport have to be precise to ensure quality so technologies can now monitor temperatures within the wine containers.

Sensory technology for plant health and growth. Currently, sensors can be used to determine the nutritional value of the soil and to improve water usage. These applications are becoming increasingly important in light of regulations that manage water consumption and environmental controls, and they are invaluable for growers to help them optimise plant yields and health. These sensors are capable of determining how much moisture is in the soil and can help vineyards minimise the risks posed by drought or excessive rainfall, and reduce plant stress factors.

Intelligent initiatives with global leaders and wine makers. From artificial intelligence and analytics that leverage the data from the sensors to improve performance and decision making, to the use of technology to transform output without environmental impact, innovators and wine makers are changing the face of the future. Projects such as the Porto Protocol and Fruitlook.co.za are paving the way for sustainable innovation and development, both in South Africa and abroad; while solutions such as Dionysos and e-WAK are changing how wineries engage with technologies such as IoT, NFC and more.

This article was originally published in Fast Company SA. In partnership with AYO technology Solutions.

Share this article: