Winery uses custom-built mobile apps to consolidate insights

E&J Gallo Winery built mobile platforms for scheduling, irrigation management and real-time reporting to help improve grape cultivation and harvesting practices.

E&J Gallo Winery - vineyard
E&J Gallo Winery

Like vintners through the ages, E&J Gallo Winery believes that cultivating grapes is the most important part of the winemaking process. But the Modesto, Calif.-based company also thought that the ancient art of growing and harvesting grapes for wine might benefit from some high-tech help.

So company leaders set out to give their growers and support personnel digital tools to help manage the harvesting and irrigation practices. They wanted to provide more real-time data to help with decision-making, and they wanted the tools to be available via mobile devices, so workers could spend more time in the fields and less time at their desks.

The goal was to make an even better product.

"The benefits of these applications are increased quality and better wines. We are able to have our winemaking and grower relations staff spend their time focusing on grape quality and harvest management versus administrative tasks," says Gallo CIO Sanjay Shringarpure.

Computerworld - Digital Edge 50 [2017] - Sanjay Shringarpure, CIO, E&J Gallo E&J Gallo Winery

Shringarpure says this initiative involved a few distinct deliverables. The first was a mobile scheduling platform. To build this, the IT team used a custom mobile application (Java and Angular JS) that runs on multiple mobile platforms, such as iPads and laptops. Gallo's grower relations representatives, who work with growers to ensure that their grape crops meet the company's quality standards, are the primary users of this scheduling platform.

With the scheduling system, Gallo can push key data points and predictive tools to its grape-growing and winemaking community members in real time as they begin to prepare for the harvest season. Team members can make decisions using objective, current-season data points rather than basing their judgments on historical trends and patterns or intuition as they had in the past. The platform also allows team members to set harvest schedules in real time while they're working in the fields.

The platform is delivering results that exceed expectations, Shringarpure says. Team members are more productive, because they can access data at any time, no matter where they are. Moreover, that real-time data helps them make better decisions, decreasing waste and increasing yields from the vineyards.

Better data, better yields

An irrigation management platform was another key component of Gallo's digital initiative. For this platform, Shringarpure's IT team used a combination of custom-developed models and tools as well as an ESRI geographic information system that runs on the AWS cloud.

Designed to help the company optimize its water use while still maximizing grape quality, this platform uses big data analytics to generate irrigation recommendations based on satellite and high-resolution imagery, weather forecasts, ground sensor data and proprietary algorithms.

This information, once processed, is deployed via mobile dashboards through a series of commercial reporting products developed by ESRI. Viticulturists, irrigation managers, wine and grape supply analysts, and grower relations representatives use the irrigation platform to manage the vineyards throughout the growing season.

Gallo officials note that it's particularly important to have tools that support smart water management at this time, when California is just emerging from a period of historic drought.

The technology has helped the company achieve better-than-expected yield and quality improvements, and in light of that success, Gallo officials say they plan to expand the platform. They're teaming up with a leading irrigation systems manufacturer to develop next-generation vineyard irrigation systems.

Data fresh from the harvest

Another deliverable was a real-time reporting suite that's designed to consolidate insights across multiple systems and tools. Gallo's supply team (made up of leaders from winemaking, grower relations and winery operations) uses this reporting platform to make critical decisions throughout the harvest.

A mobile platform, the reporting system has reduced the time that members of the winemaking and grower relations teams spend in the office by more than 50%.

The reporting platform and other new tools "have dramatically improved our communication and workflow, which has allowed our teams to react quickly to the many changes that occur over the course of harvest," says Adam Irrer, Gallo's manager of wine and grape supply.

He says the new systems foster improved collaboration because they feature integrated, dynamic environments. Moreover, the technology helps with decision-making by providing needed data at critical times during the vineyard production cycle.

"Our wine growing community benefits greatly from this technology stack. The platform creates a means for collaboration and integration between our winemaking, vineyard management and grower relations teams that previously did not exist," Irrer says. "By having the ability to easily create and share data, these teams have been able to spend more time in the vineyard or in the lab and less time transferring and reconciling spreadsheets."

E&J Gallo Winery vineyard E&J Gallo Winery

Shringarpure says his tech team developed the new tools using an agile methodology with a team of full stack developers, business analysts and key business partners. The mobile scheduling platform was built by a completely in-house team, he says, while the irrigation platform was developed and deployed by a team made up of in-house staffers and partners from ESRI. And Gallo's GIS team developed and maintains the reporting platform in partnership with the integration and data services teams.

"As with any sizable project, the biggest challenges came with change management," Shringarpure says. He credits robust partnerships with champions in business units for IT's success in developing tools that meet the company's needs and then gaining universal acceptance and adoption of those tools.

Work on the platforms is ongoing. "Our reporting platforms continue to develop and evolve as our needs change and more information becomes available through continued vineyard innovation," Shringarpure says. "These are platforms that we remain focused on in order to support our long-standing commitment to quality and water effectiveness."

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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