Open Source Solutions for Vineyard Health Management

Final Report for FNC14-960

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Stephen Lunak
Flying L Ranch Vineyard
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Project Information


I run an 8-acre wine grape vineyard, consisting of cold climate grape varieties in Isanit County Minnesota.

Prior to receiving the grant I ran a mostly sustainable vineyard. All fertilizer was either compost teas of mulch / compost.  The isles between the rows of vines were mowed not tilled and at times I ran sheep in the vineyard to cut down on labor of mowing and suckering the vines. I used natural fungal and bacterial disease control on the vines.

Project Description

Using DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Resources and ideas, perform Vineyard health analysis in the field. To do this we will do soil and tissue analysis using spectral analysis.  Also perform aerial Co2 to O2 analysis to get a full picture of plant health (photosynthesis) using airborne near IR (infrared) cameras.  Also deploying humidity, temp, and light sensors in the canopy to determine triggers for plant issues.


  1. Build and deploy small cheap sensors to monitor vineyard environmental conditions and have them wirelessly report to a base station for analysis (temp, humidity, moisture, sun exposure).
  2. Using a small drone and camera setup, monitor the vineyard health using infrared photography.
  3. Monitor plant health at precise locations using a DIY spectrometer to determine plant respiration and water loss.


For the sensors I ordered several different micro-controllers (raspberry pi, Arduino, and derivatives of them) along with the sensors and the radios that were used to talk to each other and built several sensor setups.  My goal was to design a sensor that was easy to assemble and had low power draw and was under 10 dollars each.  ( ) Using this type of controller was putting the sensor in the range of 20 – 30 dollars to make and are a reliable data source but bad power management (eats batteries).  I'm still working with a couple of these and there have been some new cheap boards with wifi built in that have really come down on price.  So they are still a work in progress

I had also tried to produce a dumb, dirt cheap sensor ( )

This one has potential but getting the transmission of the information has been tricky so it's still a work in process.

For the aerial photography I purchased a quadcopter from that had a camera turret attached to it where I mounted a modified GoPro Camera ( ). I removed the lens from the GoPro and installed one that removed the fish eye effect that the camera is known for and installed one without an infrared filter on it. On the new lens I installed an infragram filter kit which allows you to transform a camera into an infrared / Visible composting Multispectral camera, which allows you to measure photosynthetic activity of plants (

This works rather well to take individual pictures and really lets you see an aerial view of how your plants are doing and allows you to locate poor performing plants.  But stitching the images together in Public Labs Map Knitter program is very time consuming (

If I can find a small camera that would also include GPS coordinates with the picture information data it would be much easier and you could use a different mapping program online to create really cool 3D maps of your fields (

The DIY spectrometer really didn’t pan out; trying to get a data base to be able to compare images to was wasn’t working the way I thought it would. This is again a Public Labs kit and software I was using.


                I used 3 other vineyards besides mine to test some of the processes on. They were:

                 Milliner Heritage Vineyard and Winery


                Willow Tree Winery


                Wild Mountain Winery



The results on the sensors is still not complete. I’m working on a new design this spring for a good sensor at a reasonable price that is good on power consumption. The final product will be published in a manual I’m putting together.  But at this point there is a cost associated that is not feasible for a large scale deployment of a sensor net.

The aerial photography is a semi success. With equipment costing around 1500.00 dollars you are able to put together a system for monitoring crops through infrared analysis. But better tools are needed to be able to make field maps of the data collected.  More info on this will be published in the DIY Manual I'll be putting together.

There is also currently legislation that is in the Minnesota government system right now that may make this a cost prohibitive activity because of the new drone laws that are being proposed.  If they pass this would be considered a commercial use of a drone and there could be a fee associated with the use and a licensing issue to deal with.  Currently you are also required to register with the FAA if you fly a drone of any kind.  There is also further federal legislation being proposed right now.  So this may not be a good tool in the future depending on the laws that are passed.

And as I said earlier, the plant tissue spectral analysis wasn’t really a good tool to use for plant health monitoring with the equipment that was available on a limited budget.


I learned that there are a lot of good DIY tools out there for monitoring Vineyard health that can be great tools if used right and you have the time to dedicate to using them.  There are professional tools and people to use those tools that do the same thing, but they can be very expensive and not always available when you need them.

The advantage of DIY is that it is right there always when you need it, and there is no waiting for a professional person to come out and help you out. And at some times, that extra time spent waiting could mean a good harvest or a crop lost to disease.

The main disadvantage I see though is the extra time spent going the DIY route that you have to put in analyzing the data you collect instead of having someone else do  it for you, and the amount of information you need to learn to put that data to work.


At present I have been at a couple different producer days with the Minnesota Grape Growers to show what I was working on.  Once I get working sensors and a better camera setup I will be putting together a manual on how to build these tools. 

I will also be doing demonstrations on the different sensors and the aerial photography for free to interested people.

I will also be building and selling parts of the system to people who would like to deploy these tools but don’t have the time or skill to do it themselves.

Project Objectives:

Create a database of healthy and unhealthy spectrographs of soil and plant tissue and correlate that to nutrient management and plant diseases so that immediate remediation can be done without waiting for a lab to get back to you. 

Identify different environmental factors that can be controlled and in what ways to maintain a healthy vineyard canopy.

Take a full vineyard view to identify areas that may need more attention and input to lessen the amount of time, effort and money needed to maintain a healthy vineyard.


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  • Stephen Lunak


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.