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VineView

Base: Angwin Airport/Parrett Field, Hangar 13, Airport Way, Angwin

Mailing: P.O. Box 1141, St. Helena, CA 94574

707-967-8707

vineview.com

Geologists Matthew Staid, Ph.D., and Melissa Staid, Ph.D., started VineView Imaging LLC in 2002 and incorporated as Scientific Aerial Imaging Inc. in 2008.

Since then, VineView has been the premier supplier of precision aerial imaging to grape growers in California’s North and Central coasts. VineView has five employees currently serving California, Oregon and Washington vineyards. Imaging products include vigor and disease mapping, water stress mapping and aerial photography. Customers are individual vineyard owners, vineyard management companies, large multivineyard operations and publicly traded companies. VineView also serves fruit and nut tree growers in the Central Valley.

The company operates two aircraft equipped with custom imaging ports and cutting-edge scientific imaging cameras and instruments. An in-house calibration lab allows for precise calibration of imaging equipment, which enables them to offer the most consistent aerial imaging products available. GPS data and inertial measurements acquired during flights are used to accurately position the images in true coordinates, so that they can be viewed on portable devices in the field relative to other data used by vineyard managers.

The Staids talked with the Business Journal about the growing popularity of aerial imaging for mapping the spread of vine foes and the impact of widespread drone photography.

What have been recent highlights for your company?

Staids: VineView has developed a leafroll mapping technique based on hyperspectral imaging technologies. Grapevine leafroll disease is a virus that occurs in every major grape growing region of the world and results in significant economic loss.

Working with Napa County Farm Advisor Monica Cooper and several of our clients, we have validated the aerial leafroll mapping technique and found it to be highly accurate in detecting leafroll infections in red grape varietals. This product is helping growers quantify infection rate and identify diseased vines while control is still a viable option. Removal of diseased vines is a critical part of leafroll disease management.

The RedleafMap product is enjoying increased popularity as orders have increased about 600 percent over the past three years. This new product was recently the focus a feature article in Vineyard and Winery Management magazine (“Detecting grapevine leafroll from the air,” vwm-online.com/images/2015SO_GIESE_Detecting_Leafroll.pdf). We are working toward additional disease mapping capabilities including leafroll mapping in white grape varietals.

VineView has also recently partnered with the Canadian drone company SkySquirrel Technologies (SST). Drone-based imaging promises to put the control in the hands of the user which allows for higher resolution, better timing and more flexibility for acquiring aerial data. This approach allows the vineyard manager to determine when and what type of data is necessary and then collect the aerial data themselves or through a consultant. The data then are processed via the cloud and delivered back to the user. Partnering with SST will also allow VineView to offer its cutting-edge products internationally. France, Canada, Australia, and Chile have embraced the commercial use of drone technology for agriculture. We see these international markets as a great opportunity to validate the benefits of drones as a tool in the vineyard.

How has your operation changed in the past few years?

Staids: The development of new diagnostic imaging tools has been a top priority for VineView over the past several years. While traditional vigor mapping techniques (e.g., NDVI and EVI) still remain a useful tool for crop management, we see a critical shift toward more precise information inputs for agriculture.

VineView

Base: Angwin Airport/Parrett Field, Hangar 13, Airport Way, Angwin

Mailing: P.O. Box 1141, St. Helena, CA 94574

707-967-8707

vineview.com

This shift is moving toward more specific mapping products at the level of individual vines. Hyperspectral imaging has revolutionized our ability to deliver these type of products. Hyperspectral data can be used to map specific diseases, irrigation deficit and other sources of stress in plants. Leafroll mapping is just one example of a nearly infinite range of possible diagnostic maps.

How is your operation set to change in the foreseeable future?

Staids: We are moving toward more user-driven data. We want the customer to have the ability to order and access data via the Internet, without prearranging a flight.

Additionally, we are developing a platform in which the user can interactively customize the data to meet their own needs. For example, they could choose specific blocks to analyze in more detail, change the color scale or add their own spatial data sets, such as shapefiles, soil data, etc.

We see the drones as the ultimate user-driven platform. Partnering with SkySquirrel has given us the opportunity to adapt camera equipment and diagnostic imaging products to unmanned platforms, putting more control in the hands of the farmer.

How healthy is the wine business?

Staids: The wine and vineyard business is fairly healthy, but we do feel the impact of corporate farming entering into vineyard operations. The successful use of our products requires some training and knowledge on the part of the vineyard manager.

When you see turnover due to vineyard acquisitions, some of that detailed knowledge of the vineyards and vineyard data is lost. The good news is that young vineyard managers and viticulturists are usually tech savvy and interested in using technology to improve efficiency and quality in farming operations.

What are top opportunities and challenges?

Staids: Opportunities are drone-based platforms, smaller and less-expensive scientific cameras, and increased access to data through Internet-enabled portable devices.

The development of smaller imaging sensors and new technologies related to unmanned (drone) imaging platforms provides the opportunity to deliver diagnostic plant-level information to vineyard managers on a more frequent basis. Putting the data collection in the hands of the growers also allows us to scale our existing products to new markets. Cloud-based processing and the broader use of portable Internet-connected devices provides opportunities for more real-time user interaction and customization of imaging products while out in the vineyard.

Challenges are maintaining quality of products acquired by drones and the increased use of lower-quality cameras in the marketplace. Reducing the cost and size of equipment for use on drones while maintaining the accuracy and consistency of existing products acquired from manned aircraft is challenging. Data needs to be collected using scientifically calibrated sensors at specific times of day to provide consistent information over time.

User-acquired data collection from drones will result in a much larger range of quality than is obtained from individual aerial missions conducted by remote-sensing companies. The increased use of modified consumer cameras in the marketplace, rather than calibrated scientific cameras, is also resulting in a lot of confusion for the end user. A challenge in the current environment is educating potential clients about the difference between taking “snapshots” and collecting accurate measurements that will provide useful and consistent information over time.