These days even deeply traditional sectors like the wine world cannot deny the inevitable: every aspect of our lives is growing increasingly dependent on technology, a reality which is true for every industrial sector.
In fact, wine and technology have already forged an alliance that promises an interesting
future, especially in terms of sustainability.
Any discussion about sustainability should take into account the United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals (SDGs). Adopted in 2012, these objectives established a shared blueprint for tackling the world’s many social, economic, and environmental challenges, from reducing inequalities and improving working conditions to
building sustainable cities and taking climate action, to name a few.
The idea was to set up a global framework of goals for stakeholders to meet when implementing any sort of positive- impact strategy.
Achieving these goals calls for sweeping transformations, which in turn come with their own priority investments and regulatory challenges. They call for action by well-defined governmental sectors working in collaboration with business and civil society. This makes it
possible to implement transformations within institutional frameworks while respecting the strong interdependence between the 17 SDGs. In addition, the UN has also outlined an action plan directed at the scientific community to develop the knowledge needed to design, implement, and monitor SDG Transformations.
At the core of these transformations are six primary building blocks of societal change, including human capacities (such as education or health), consumption and production
models, decarbonization, and the digital revolution.
SDG Transformations are meant to
provide a feasible roadmap for achieving the SDGs.
Although frequently criticised, the digital revolution is unparalleled in how swiftly it can drive change and deliver effective results within a short period of time.
We are currently seeing a growing number of examples that show the positive impact of digitalization in areas as complex as viticulture.
Precision viticulture employs technologies such as drones, satellite and remote sensing imagery to compile and analyse data pertaining to soil composition, vine health, and climate conditions. With the appropriate kind of data analysis and management – data we already
work with in our day-to-day vineyard operations, albeit in a more rudimentary fashion –
winemakers are starting to optimize vineyard management practices, minimizing the use of
water, energy, and chemical products; wasting fewer resources; and improving the overall
quality of the wine.
The implementation of technology in the vineyard isn’t limited to reducing our consumption of natural resources. It is also interesting in terms of mitigating climate change.
New digital systems allow us to monitor, quantify, and thereby improve the vineyards’ capacity to
capture and store carbon.
The integration of advanced technologies, data analysis methods, and sustainable practices
could revolutionize vineyard management and thus drive the market’s growth in the future.
Technology is also generating a lot of interest in terms of traceability, which goes hand in hand with improved value chain transparency – another pending task, not only for the wine
world, but several other sectors as well.
Considering the close relationship that the wine industry shares with agricultural labour in rural areas, proper and transparent traceability across the entire value chain becomes absolutely essential to ensure socially ethical practices.
Here too digitalization provides us with a wide array of solutions.
Managing data to improve traceability also allows us to promote efficacy and efficiency, improve the quality of the end product, and, above all, improve the relationships we maintain with our stakeholders.
Recently, the European Union introduced the mandatory use of QR codes on wine labels to provide consumers with information about the product’s ingredients and nutritional value.
Yet another clear example of how tech’s growing presence in the sector can provide solutions – in this case, as a way of complying with new legal requirements.
According to the OIV, QR codes are “destined to become a leading technology in the future”.
For manufacturers and regulators, electronic labels offer a powerful alternative to traditional means of compliance when it comes to providing consumers with legally
mandated information. These labels can be updated easily and require less space, thereby contributing to design innovations and reducing waste derived from the production and modification of physical labels.
When it comes to winemaking itself, human ingenuity and practical innovation are proving to be a highly effective match. For instance, wineries are starting to generate value from
their organic residues by developing useful applications: natural dyes, extracts for the food industry, biomaterials such as bioplastics, bio-foams, bio-textiles, etc.
This is exemplified by the likes of BIOVINO, a project operating in areas along the Spanish-Portuguese border that is laying the theoretical and technical foundations for a bio- refinery. This would create value (in a profitable and environmentally sustainable fashion) for by-products and other residues of the wine industry and produce a wide variety of
bioactive compounds. So far, the participating centres have used the research to assemble inventories of potentially valuable vinicultural residues. The use of winemakin-derived residues would benefit producers financially while simultaneously mitigating environmental impacts.
Innovation and tech have made their way into the wine industry and are here to stay.
Rather than resisting them, we should view them as allies in what we do and use them to mitigate and prevent the acceleration of climate change, which is having such a significant and tangible impact and threatening the future of the wines we enjoy today.
Marta Juega, PhD.