November 2, 2017
Purdue-based agriculture software company receives $500,000 grant from the NSF to help wine grape growers
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue-based company that designs software and performs in-field analysis to help wine grape growers and winemakers improve crop quality and sustainability has won a two-year federal grant worth more than $500,000.
VinSense LLC, which uses technology licensed from Purdue University, was selected to receive a two-year Small Business Innovation Research grant worth $514,295. David Ebert, VinSense’s chief technology officer, said the funding will be used during the first year to develop a more robust and automated technology that will allow wine grape growers to better understand their vineyards, develop higher precision growing plans to more accurately grow wine grapes sustainably and to produce higher wine quality. Those growing plans will provide better crop management through unique, high-precision soil modeling and mapping combined with predictive analytics to improve irrigation management, vineyard floor management, pruning and canopy management. The improved software will give wine grape growers and winemakers the edge in understanding the progression of quality or even pest pressures in their vineyards.
“This will allow us to grow our customer base,” said Ebert, Silicon Valley Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue. “The goal over the next 12 months is to expand our penetration in the wine-growing industry on the Pacific Coast.”
Second-year funding will be used to expand the business into other perennial crops on the West Coast, starting with nut and berry production. VinSense likely will start with almonds and pistachios because the company already has contacts and relationships with these crop farmers.
“The goal is to create a similar decision-making software platform for other perennial crops,” Ebert said.
The software will help farmers save money through soil moisture management by lower irrigation costs and providing information on optimal soil nutrient levels.
“We are focusing on perennial crops because the decisions farmers make in a given year have multi-year impacts,” Ebert said. “You're looking at the economy and sustainability of operations over multiple years.”
Like fine wine, the VinSense program will improve with age, Ebert said.
“As we’re able to collect more data, refine our algorithms and predictions, as well as work with more growers, we’ll be able to fine-tune the features in the software to meet their needs,” he said. “Our overall goal is to harness and integrate big data from any source available such as infield sensors, weather data, fruit samples, drone data, and transform it into easily understood, actionable information directly relevant to the grower needs and decisions.”
About Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization
The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at email@example.com.