WINCHESTER, Va. — A 100-acre plot of land on a Virginia hillside can't transform into a vineyard overnight.
"We bought a forest," Laurel Grove Wine Farm Owner Jaclyn Mommen said. "Sometimes I think my greatest strength is that I've never been a farmer. I have no preconceived notions on what my father did or what my mother did."
Mommen has a passion for sustainability and plans to not use any synthetic chemicals on her farm.
"And to do that, we had to make really smart planting systems and start there," Jaclyn said. "Our major problem in Virginia is humidity. What the best weapon against humidity? It's wind."
Mommen and her husband bought weather stations from a company called SwitchDoc Labs. The idea is to understand the weather conditions on their land and plant vines to maximize the benefits. But nothing fit their needs perfectly.
Idaho Computer Science Professor John Shovic worked at SwitchDoc and noticed one account buying a large number of specific equipment. He reached out to Mommen to ask about their project.
"As soon as I understood the entire problem, it was a perfect project for the university," Shovic said. "Data to outcomes. That's the whole purpose of this."
A trio of graduate students traveled to Laurel Grove to install their own data collection system across the vineyard. It's a collection of thousands of sensors, according to Shovic.
The UI system creates a unified dashboard where weather data and soil conditions are solidified into one database. Soon, UI plans to have artificial technology interpret this data to provide actionable suggestions for farmers to maximize their farms efficiency.
"Lots of vineyards end up having to pull out vines year after year - after 10 years - because they made mistakes when it came to planting because they didn't have the data. Our goal is to have vines that live to be 100 years," Jaclyn said.
Shovic plans to install this technology into Idaho vineyards. He has started getting in contact to begin to process.
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