Want to see where the art of vineyard management is headed tomorrow? Check out what Napa Valley grape grower Paul Goldberg is doing now.

As Bettinelli Vineyards manager, he looks after the fifth-generation farming family’s operations at 10 locations throughout Napa Valley.

The use of computers, software and sensors combined with satellite and Internet communications to monitor vineyard conditions like air temperature, wind speed, soil moisture levels, dew point and the like, have been around for many years. However, some Napa growers, including Goldberg, have taken this wireless technology to a new level of sophistication.

For example, by fitting a sensor-equipped collar, made by Fruition Science, around the trunk or arm of a vine, he can measure the sap flow within the vine.

“The vine itself becomes a sensor,” Goldberg says.

This enables him to walk the fine line between stressing the vine to produce top-quality fruit without compromising the overall health of the plant. Weather factors like temperature and humidity affect the plant’s demand for water. The vine responds to those factors via the amount of sap or water flowing through it.

The Fruition Science system lets him view graphs on his computer screen that show him, in real time, how sap flows.

“I can set the program to alert me when the vine has run low on water” based on sap flow, he explains. “That’s the precise moment when I need to turn on the irrigation.”

He can do that from his laptop, tablet or smartphone. He’s been able to start and stop his pumps and adjust water application rates remotely for two years.

“The software lets me toggle specially-designed valves to increase or decrease water flow in precise increments with each click of the mouse or tablet screen touch,” Goldberg says. “It’s all pretty seamless.”

This increased level of precision saves time, money and water. “In many cases, this technology has allowed us to irrigate less by holding off the water until later in the season,” he says. “And, in some cases, we’re now dry farming entire blocks of vineyards that we never farmed without irrigation before.”