• TerrAvion TerrAvion
  • Feb 11
  • 4 min read

Power user: Palmaz Vineyards

Our customers inspire TerrAvion products. Ag retailers, agronomic platforms, agronomists, or growers; we are focused on building tools that you need. Through the relationship with our involved users, we learn how they are finding success in using TerrAvion imagery to power their operations. We like to share that information with the rest of our user base so that they, too, can get the most out of their investment in TerrAvion imagery. In our new Power User blog series, we will highlight the success stories of some of our most progressive users. 

Palmaz VineyardsPalmaz Vineyards and TerrAvion

Palmaz Vineyards runs one of the most high-tech winemaking operations in Napa Valley, with co-founder and CEO Christian Palmaz leading the way for all winery and vineyard operations. Palmaz, who has a computer science background, built one of the most innovative viticulture programs in the industry by harnessing highly sophisticated Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing technology. His goal was to produce higher-quality fruit while increasing efficiency and limiting the vineyard's environmental impact. His work culminated in FILCS — pronounced Felix — which stands for Fermentation Intelligence Logic Control System. FILCS is the wine industry's first fully algorithmic fermentation-control system. This system allows Palmaz Vineyards to streamline the fermentation management process, freeing their winemakers to focus more on creating top-quality wine. Outside of FILCS, Palmaz runs another innovative program, a high-tech variable rate irrigation (VRI) system, focused on the fruit while it's still on the vine.

Variable-rate irrigation 

Before joining his family's wine business, Palmaz was working with a precision agriculture program in commodity crops that was one of the most advanced, high-tech programs in the country at the time. When he came to work for Palmaz Vineyards, Palmaz applied his precision ag experience to winemaking. Palmaz built a powerful variable-rate irrigation program powered by high-resolution aerial imagery data. Palmaz's irrigation system reacts to TerrAvion NDVI imagery. Soil moisture data is collected sporadically, and results are correlated to NDVI pixel values. Palmaz's self-developed computer program analyzes the soil moisture and imagery data and from it generates a variable rate irrigation map (see image to the left). The Palmaz vineyard is fitted with tens of thousands of Palmaz Vineyards and TerrAvionwater emitters. The system allows for control of the amount of water flow over every plant. Palmaz's software spits out suggested emitter adjustments for each plant, and each gets adjusted accordingly. 

Palmaz's variable rate irrigation system results in a parcel that is growing more closely together. The system allows vines to perform more uniformly, producing fruit of a more consistent, higher quality. The system also helps Palmaz identify problem areas that are suffering from issues beyond water stress. Struggling vines that don't respond to prescribed irrigation rates often have other problems that they are combating, such as disease, pest, or soil compaction issues. Palmaz Vineyard’s VRI system helps them identify these issues in a more timely manner. Outside of the soil moisture correlation maps, Palmaz also uses high-level analytics to correlate NDVI data to other vineyard data, like soil nitrate presence. This information can help him decide when a parcel is no longer producing quality fruit and needs to be replanted. 

The primary focus of Palmaz's program is to allow the vineyard to operate more efficiently, limiting their input use was and minimizing their environmental footprint while also producing higher-quality grapes and wine. Palmaz says that it is hard to identify precisely how much water is being saved because the amount of water needed to produce healthy vines varies depending on rainfall and other environmental conditions. "It's going to take a decade to record and normalize data to compare to the previous decade before VRI system was implemented." Palmaz conservatively estimates that his system cuts his water use by about 15%. 

Why TerrAvion

For Palmaz's VRI system to work, he needed high-resolution imagery delivered consistently every week, and needed it delivered within 24 hours so it could be correlated it to soil moisture data. Before using TerrAvion high-resolution imagery data, Palmaz was struggling to make his system work. "Before Screenshot_19-2TerrAvion, the product that we needed to power our system didn't exist. Nobody was offering subscription, high-resolution NDVI imagery delivered weekly or even monthly, at a cost that made the system work. Satellite imagery didn't provide the resolution we needed." For advanced users like Palmaz who are looking to apply their own analytics solutions to TerrAvion imagery, the ability to access the raw image data is of utmost importance. "TerrAvion makes the raw data that they capture right out of the camera very easy to access so that we can apply our analytics to it. We use the imagery to calculate the spectral difference between the plants/vines and cover crop/grass." This information allows Palmaz to focus on the vines by filtering out data from cover crop. 

Palmaz sees subscription aerial imagery as an essential part of winemaking for the future. He believes that growers who have not embraced the applications of high-resolution imagery for winemaking are missing an excellent opportunity to produce higher-quality wine with fewer inputs and less of an impact on the environment. "TerrAvion NDVI imagery is actionable in-season. We don't have to wait until the end of the year for validation of things we are doing in-season. By the end of the season, you can't do anything. Waiting until the end of the year to plan for next year instead of being proactive in the current season is such a waste. It's crazy. You can't farm at this level without it"

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