The company’s tagline is “the best wine from every vine”. But how do they get it, exactly? Founder Alan Ames explains that Vingineers blends satellite data with drone footage, and then uses AI-based models to analyse the result and produce advanced vineyard analytics.
“Farmers can walk around and see the actual data on their mobile,” says Ames. “And they can track ground ‘truth’ data which helps make our models more accurate.”
In practical terms, this translates into reports on field health, projections about harvests, advice on the best sampling spots, digitalising the grape-to-bottle process and other services for farmers.
“Every single vine gets its own personality, with hundreds of metrics about the health of that vine,” Ames says.
In the field
One memorable moment for Ames, in the process of creating Vingineers, came early on in his “experimentation phase”.
Ames was in South Africa, trialling some advanced analytics that he had created to parse drone data. He’d applied his analytics to many fields on one farm, when the farm manager decided to put Ames’s methods to the test.
“The farmer was very traditional and sceptical about the value of what I was doing,” says Ames, “so he picked a field he knew well, and we both went out to look at it. When we got there, he stood up on top of the pickup truck to look out over the field in front of us. He looked at the analytics map in his hand, then back up at the field, and said, ‘I’ll be damned… this doesn’t make sense!’ He was looking at the vigour map, and the map in his hand matched the field perfectly.”
“After that,” Ames adds, “they started using my maps for all of their picking plans to maximise ripeness and quality.”
Ames worked in the satellite industry for 15 years before his career took him from the US to France. The transition had a profound effect on his palate: “I gained such an enormous appreciation for quality food and wine that I just had not experienced living in the US.”
It was enough to induce him to switch careers. “I decided I wanted to make a change and apply all of my experience in satellite engineering to something new,” he says. “Since I had made friends with winemakers and enjoyed visiting them so much, it seemed natural to go from solving problems on satellites to solving farmers’ problems with satellites.”
He then took his time to develop the product. “I started by consulting with wineries in France and South Africa, and traveling around to learn more about the wine industry,” he explains. For several years he offered bespoke services to winegrowers before, in 2021, he formally launched Vingineers in Luxembourg.
Using his experience, he says, he wants to “make these machine learning tools and analytics available to all wine farmers worldwide.”
In line with that, the startup’s next target is scaling up.