Ontario researchers monitor vineyards in real time

Imagine being a grape grower and being able to check on any one vine at any given time. Or being able to know exactly when to spray pesticides to protect the crops – or not.

University and college researchers have partnered with Ontario vineyards to supply them with real-time weather forecast information based on regional data sources. Part of this collaboration uses newly developed sensor technology that will continuously report on variables such as temperature and humidity in each participating vineyard.

Each individual vine in each vineyard has been GPS located, tagged and recorded into a database of the PrAgMatic system developed by Niagara Research at Niagara College. Large datasets collected by sensors are three-dimensionally mapped, and researchers involved in the project at other institutions are able to access the results over ORION, Ontario’s advanced research and education network. Vineyard owners are then able to access real-time, remote-sensed data that allows them to better manage and control operations, inputs and yields.

One of the goals of this project is to tell growers in real time if and when they need to spray pesticides and other agrochemicals. Research results may save growers time and money, improve the taste of Ontario wines, and improve vineyards’ impact on the environment by reducing the overall use of agrochemicals.

The recipient of this year’s ORION Discovery Award, the PrAgMatic project includes a collaboration of researchers from Niagara College, Brock University, the University of Guelph, Nova Scotia Community College, and Queen’s University, as well as partners from the Grape Growers of Ontario, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and IBM Research.  The project has been supported by the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

“Over the next few years, the ORION network will be very useful in allowing us to share these massive datasets with our expanding family of collaborators,” says Dr. Michael Duncan, Chair, Visualization Sciences at Niagara College. “The most data intensive applications will involve the sensor networks – as they kick in, the data volumes will become huge.”

The PrAgMatic data management system collects, processes and disseminates data and information to growers and researchers. The system consists of numerous ‘channels’, each representing a view into a vineyard’s data-space. Researchers involved in vineyard research are able to take their research results and encapsulate them as a channel that provides a grower with a view into their own vineyard.

“It is very Web 2.0 oriented,” says Duncan, “and very reliant on network bandwidth and latency to make the whole thing look integrated. The more robust the network, the more cohesive PrAgMatic will look – another advantage of using ORION.”



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