INNOVATION AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES HIT A NEW RECORD IN ITALY: the wine sector!
For a while now, new technologies have been influencing agricultural production. In Italy, business ventures related to food and technology have generated nearly 13.5 billion euro, in large part related to food startups that offer consumers new apps, services and technologies, known as “the internet of food”.Enormous steps have been taken in viniculture and oenology: innovative technologies have increased production, with other ventures aimed at consumers, who have become ever more knowledgeable about farming methods and the wine’s origins and thus much more discerning in their preferences.
The use of ‘smart farms’ in wine production, which employ agro-food technologies to optimize the yield and productivity of farmland using modern and eco-friendly tools, is an interesting example of the current trend towards technology to produce a higher quality crop. Vineyards are outfitted with sensors in various positions according to the planting grid. By collecting data on soil and plants, micro-organism based diseases such as downy mildew can be eradicated, thus saving grape and wine harvests that might have previously been destroyed. The farms can be monitored remotely, thanks to their integration into ‘the internet of things’, TracoVino, developed by MYOMEGA System Technologies in collaboration with Ericsson, Telenor Connexion, Intel and wine producers, is one such system. The application is a great ally for “smart” wine growers, as it provides important information about soil, climate, and plant status. MYOMEGA is also equipped to collect and analyze data from connected vineyards and create oenological databases from the results. This information in turn helps to advise manufacturers about the best solutions for their own production, thus helping to expand the network and knowledge base even further.
The Wine Blockchain from EY is another application designed to protect the integrity and enhance the profile of ‘Made in Italy’ wines. Wine blockchain EY is the first system to offer a “virtual farm-to-table” digital relationship between producer and end consumer through a QR code on the wine bottle label. By scanning the code with a smartphone the consumer gets to know the producer along with the process of cultivating, producing and finishing their wine. This direct interaction prevents counterfeiting while also allowing consumers to take a more direct role in quality control. The blockchain system creates a public database linked to the digital signature of the producer which cannot be modified or altered: it is effectively a digital identity card, and its applications are far reaching. Indeed in the future, EY is interested in using the same technology for other agri-food products.
Improving relations between wine producers and consumers is a major concern for investors, and is the main target of a number of Italian start-ups. In e-commerce, startups like Vinix, Tannico or Svinando target the creation of new virtual forms of business by looking to save consumers money through group buying, creating virtual environments with up-to-date catalogs, or by connecting sommeliers to select the best wines for subscribers. These tools help to create a more responsible and savvy consumer who will in turn make more informed choices on their wines. Svinando has been particularly successful in creating a community of wine enthusiasts that are constantly updated and informed about new wines as they become available. A similar service is also offered by Wineowine, a virtual wine market that promotes small producers and Made in Italy labels.
Rather than focusing on wine sales, other applications focus on raising awareness and informing users about production and quality. VineAway creates virtual visits to the vineyard to follow each stage of the winemaking process from rows to labelling and allows users to purchase wines that they virtually ‘grew’ once it is bottled. Winedering is hoping to become the TripAdvisor of the wine world: using its index function and review system, users consult the archives, give their feedback and opinions and upload photos. Apart from creating a community of like minded enthusiasts, the data collected helps to develop targeted marketing tools for vendors and manufacturers.
Finally, other applications focus on engaging wine novices who would like to learn more about wine culture and need a hand deciphering the vast world of wineries, labels and denominations. For those interested in learning more, there are a number of virtual sommelier programs new to the market. The smart decanter iSommelier, developed by iFavine, sets parameters regarding the wine such as type, year and gradation and then brings the wine to its ideal oxygenation level before signaling that it’s ready to drink. SommelYou, Wikivinum and Wenda give users information about their bottle of wine by scanning the label, allowing them to learn the typical features of the vintage, ideal combinations or pairings, as well as the presence of any defects or corkage in the bottle.
And now it’s time to make a toast to all these amazing projects that connect agrifood traditions and digital innovation!
The Future Food Institute is partnering with Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition 4.0 for the curation of the agritech and food tech pavillon. It is an Italian-based non-profit organization with global horizons that aims to build a more equitable world through enlightening a world-class breed of innovators, boosting entrepreneurial potential and improving agri-food expertise and tradition.