Home Wine Business Editorial WINnovation Award 2023: Lumo — Helping Growers Fine Tune Their Irrigation Volumes...

WINnovation Award 2023: Lumo — Helping Growers Fine Tune Their Irrigation Volumes to Provide Better and More Accurate Inputs for Their Crops

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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

In 2017, Devon Wright planted an orchard on his property in Northern California. In the first year, he over-watered and used up his supply of groundwater, running his well dry.

“I looked everywhere for tools that could help me automate and track my water use,” says Wright, “but I ultimately walked away disappointed by the lack of modern technology in agriculture. We have smart devices for thermostats, door bells, our electric grids and home security systems. Why has no one applied this caliber of tech to irrigation?”

So he took up the problem, and the result was the Lumo One Smart Valve, a wireless and solar-powered irrigation meter that controls and measures how much water is applied to crops.

Avoiding pitfalls

The Lumo, says Wright, was designed to avoid the pitfalls of other irrigation systems.

“We spoke to far too many growers who couldn’t trust their automation systems and who were still spending countless hours walking their vineyards to look for leaks in their lines,” he says. The Lumo One and its software were designed to make scheduling irrigation “dead easy.” Traditionally, there’s a one-way controller with a hardwired connection to solenoid valves, which receives electronic signals to open and close on command.

This means, says Wright, that no information flows in the opposite direction. Growers don’t know how much water has been delivered to each block and have no way of knowing whether there are any leaks or clogs in the lines or problems with the pump. Hence, the need to drive around the vineyard for the dreaded manual inspection.

The Lumo One, on the other hand, can communicate both ways. 

More benefits

Lumo One was also designed so it didn’t need a controller or base station. “We spoke with growers who were frustrated by the upfront expense of trenching in wires and hardwiring in valves,” says Wright. “Many of them hated their inability to easily add more valves without running out of ports and being forced to buy more controllers. 

“For growers to be able to trust their irrigation systems, they need to be able to easily verify the amount of water that’s actually flowing,” he says.

In response, the Lumo One has a built-in flow sensor and wireless mesh connectivity, so its valves can measure water flow in real time and send that information to a smartphone or computer. The software is cloud-based, which means it’s accessible from anywhere the grower can get a connection, using the company’s Ops Center management software. 

A grower can use Lumo One to see which valves are open and  how much water is flowing through them. After an irrigation run, the product details how much water each vine received; if there’s a sudden drop in flow rate, it sends a notification so that if there’s an obvious leak, the grower can close the valve immediately.
“You’re no longer in the dark. You can see what’s happening, as it’s happening, without ever going onsite,” he says.

Early adopters

Lumo One was launched this spring (2023), and has already been installed in select areas of 42 locations and more than 150,000 acres for customers that include Treasury Wine Estates, Pine Ridge, Vineyards, Spottswoode, Wente and Clos Du Val.

So far, says Wright, Lumo customers have found significant over-watering, broken pipes and clogged emitters.

“Our users are  uncovering insights about their irrigation that they had no idea about previously,” he says. “For example, most customers learn very quickly that the actual amount of water they’ve been applying to their vines for years has been as much as 10 to 30% higher or lower than what they thought they were applying. This is helping them fine tune their irrigation volumes to provide better and more accurate inputs for their crops, resulting in higher quality and quantity yields.”

And more efficient use of water.

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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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