£300,000 Funding Secured for App that Warns Grape Growers of Spring Frost

By | 27 February 2024

Spring frost is a significant problem for individuals managing a vineyard in the UK, as this can lead to substantial yield loss.

Climate change is causing springs to be warmer, and buds are bursting sooner, making them susceptible to later frost attacks.

Terraprima, a sensor producer, the Agri-EPI Centre, an agri-tech company, Plumpton College, Vinescapes consultancy, Vinewatch vineyard monitoring company, WeatherQuest forecaster, and Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) are working together to tackle this issue.

At six vineyards dispersed across East Sussex, West Sussex, Oxfordshire, and Surrey, sensors will be placed to evaluate frost risk on a micro level.

The project management team will integrate predictive models with located frost risk evaluations and real-time sensor data. This will give them the capability to provide location-specific forecasts that include both frost risk and type.

Vineyard overseers can receive frost warnings directly to their mobile devices through an application, providing an opportunity to safeguard any vulnerable vines. The gathered data will guide them towards the most effective mitigation tactics according to the hyper-local forecast conditions.

Agri-EPI Centre’s director of agri-tech engineering, Eliot Dixon, expressed the system provides a ‘critical early caution of frost risk to vineyard managers, attaining a level of precision not accomplished previously’.

He conveyed further, ‘We employ a fusion of weather modeling, IoT (Internet of Things) sensors, and remote sensing for the construction of a sturdy and trade-relevant solution that exemplifies the pinnacle of UK agri-tech.’

Dillions Vineyard (West Sussex), JoJo’s Vineyard (Oxfordshire), Tanhurst Estate Vineyard (Surrey), Plumpton College (East Sussex), Ridgeview (East Sussex), and Quarry Wood (East Sussex) are the vineyards involved in the two-year initiative.

The collaborators managed to acquire in excess of £300,000 from Innovate UK, the innovation agency controlled by the government, and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

‘We are aware that the threat of early season frost is a major worry for many producers, it’s risk heightening with climate change and increased climate unreliability, however, there is a silver lining in that the risks can be lessened and regulated – and that’s what we aim to facilitate through this project,’ stated Vinescapes CEO Dr Alistair Nesbitt.

Phoebe French, the membership engagement manager at WineGB, observed that vineyard managers are on tenterhooks day-in-day-out at the possibility of spring frost.

‘This project will give vine-growers greater control of their frost management – and hopefully their sleep schedule!’ she said.

If it proves successful, this approach could lead to a wider step-change in UK vineyard frost resilience as it is rolled out across the country.

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