The days of the neutron probe and basing irrigations solely on evapotranspiration data are limited at best. At least that’s the way Matt Angell with Emeryville-based PureSense Company sees it.

“In the past we treated the symptoms,” he says. “Now we can give the vines exactly what they need when they need it.”

Angell, who also manages a vineyard, became interested in enhanced plant monitoring in an effort to improve efficiency and conserve inputs, especially water. ETO may tell you to water a vineyard for 12 hours, but it doesn’t tell you the vines shut down after four hours,” he says. “That’s a huge waste of water.”

With sensors capable of detecting water uptake at various depths in the soil, the real-time technology can help managers adjust irrigation scheduling immediately for maximum efficiency.

PureSense is currently a resident in Fresno State University’s Water and Energy Technology Incubator — a program designed to help young entrepreneurs develop promising new ideas dealing with water and energy conservation.

“Now, we’re starting to look at a lot more variables than just water,” Angell says. “We’re tracking nutrients, looking at the different growth stages of grapes and trying to determine the optimal timing for those types of input. It’s exciting because it gives the grower much more control over what is happening in the vineyard.”