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WINnovation Award 2023: HotSpot AG — Taking the Mystery Out of the Fertigation Process

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The wine industry is constantly faced with new trends, challenges and the pressure to stay ahead of the competition. With that comes the opportunity to innovate. 

Each year, Wine Industry Network recognizes five wine industry innovators — not just for their impressive ingenuity or technical advances — but because of how their product and/or service betters the North American wine industry. 

By Jeff Siegel

How many times has something like this happened?

The viticulturist says to the operations manager: “The yield looks higher than expected and I want to add some more NPK. Where are we at with fertilizer on Block A?”

And how many times has the operation manager said, “Your guess is as good as mine”?

It’s the exact reason HotSpotAG’s 53 GPH Variable Rate Fertigation Skid was created.

Bringing hard data to fertigation

“The genesis of this product was the need to give viticulturalists and operational teams a tool to inject fertilizer remotely based on crop type, nutritional demand, fertilizer type and soil type,” says Eric Tafoya, marketing specialist for California-based HotSpotAG. “The viticulturist also needed a way to view how fertilizer was injected and a way to track fertilizer injections per block. A report was also needed to show per-block injections of fertilizer type, gallons and macro/micro nutrient units.”

Using the Fertigation Skid, growers can remotely schedule irrigation and mix up to four types of fertilizers, while varying injection rates based on block specifics. Says Tafoya: “This innovation empowers growers to achieve the four ‘R’ approach: right source, right rate, right time and right place.”

In other words, he says, “it not only simplifies the complexities of fertigation but also promotes sustainability. By conserving resources and eliminating waste, it aligns perfectly with the growing emphasis on eco-friendly and profitable farming practices.”

Many beneficial feature

Among the skid’s attributes:

  • Customizable applications: Growers can tailor nutrient applications to each vineyard block, based on what works best for each grower.
  • Real-time monitoring and control: Data can be seen from anywhere at any time, which gives growers real-time access to critical information. This way, they can make timely adjustments to their fertigation process.
  • Real time alarms: Text and email can alert the grower when something unwanted happens, so the grower can take immediate steps to stop the process.
  • Versatility: The skid features a user-friendly interface, but it can be integrated with other irrigation and vineyard management solutions, providing flexibility and sustainability for each vineyard.

“What’s remarkable about HotSpot AG’s innovation is that it not only simplifies the complexities of fertigation, but it also promotes sustainability. By conserving resources and eliminating waste, it aligns perfectly with the growing emphasis on eco-friendly and profitable farming practices.”

Early adopter testimonial

Tafoya recalls one early success story:

“[A grower] had the belief that the injection should start at the beginning of the irrigation set, based on his irrigation widget. But for nitrogen-based fertilizers, there is a risk of leaching, which was the case for these early injections. 

“With a quick training session, the manager realized he should move the fertilizer injection to the end of the irrigation sets, with one hour of water after the injection. 

The customer responded, ‘I always thought it was best to inject at the beginning of an irrigation set.’” Live and learn.

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Jeff Siegel

Jeff Siegel is an award-winning wine writer, as well as the co-founder and former president of Drink Local Wine, the first locavore wine movement. He has taught wine, beer, spirits, and beverage management at El Centro College and the Cordon Bleu in Dallas. He has written seven books, including “The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wine.”

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