Growing & Winemaking


Choosing Vineyard Management Software

January 2015
by By Richard Carey
iPad in vineyard
Photo Courtesy Agcode

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a series that will provide an overview of the software available to the wine industry. This report examines vineyard management software and will be followed by winery and finally the marketing and sales information management software.

Anyone with even cursory knowledge of the wine industry knows its complexity and some of the arcane regulatory hoops through which we must leap. The software we use for information tracking and compliance must accommodate variables from regulatory bodies, regional trade groups and sustainability organizations.

We have grouped the software providers into segments organized by the software’s primary focus. The companies in each segment provide information relative to that segment for your vineyard.


  • The article describes specialty software available for vineyard operations.
  • It covers instrumentation and equipment, software designed for wineries to deal with vineyards, and software for vineyard managers and owners.
  • The software is diverse and complex, requiring thoughtful study before committing to use it.

The four companies that specialize in instrumentation cover a wide array of equipment and software to run this equipment. Orange Enterprises is a primary supplier of handheld devices, printers and scanners; these devices can interact with software from other companies. Software is what drives these digital tools can be used to help with their payroll and monitoring of employees and production.

California-based Davis Instrument and Nuance of Ontario are also part of the instrument-based sector. These companies distribute agricultural weather equipment to help monitor crop status. This type of software collects weather data for analysis and can transmit notifications directly to a smartphone, making immediate action possible. Their systems can take advantage of solar power to run the instrumentation for local operations of the weather station. The software uses data loggers to collect data over time. It then helps to analyze the trends to improve the vineyard management. These systems can reduce the amount of pesticide applied in the vineyard because they recommend the correct material and ideal times based on prediction software.

Nuance is a distributor of weather equipment and other types of equipment for the wine industry, while Davis is a manufacturer with expertise in automotive, marine and weather equipment.

Spectrum Technologies, on the other hand, manufactures and distributes weather-monitoring equipment and also includes information about nutrient management, soil and water. The weather-monitoring equipment covers the gamut from full weather stations down to individual weather elements such as light, temperature, etc. Spectrum has equipment to test for plant and soil nutrients and determine other soil and water parameters. They also write software to service their equipment.

Vintners Advantage, Orion, Wine Management Systems and Winemakers Database are all high-quality companies with integrated software that starts in the vineyard. However, the software that these companies have developed for the vineyard is written from an outsider’s (i.e. the winery) viewpoint rather than from the vineyard side. Their pricing schemes and detail don’t provide enough information for grapegrowers.

If your winery needs vineyard data to help produce make better wine, then these packages have what you need.

Vintners Advantage Vineyard Module
According to the Vintners Advantage website, vineyard blocks can be defined by the viticulturist or winemaker in just about any way they deem necessary. Blocks can contain soil, pruning, trellis, irrigation, varietal, rootstock, and pesticide and disease information. Vineyard information is tracked and can be made available to the winery or grower. Obviously yield information can be tracked by block. The vineyard module features soil characteristics, historical lab tests, vineyard activity pricing pro-rated by block size or actual cost and reporting.

The module permits online entry of weigh tag data for all types of inputs such as grapes (and other fruit), wine or juice. The module has field tags for contracts, tonnage, carrier, date and chemistry details that can be captured. Much of the information is integrated into “grower payments” and “work orders,” providing factual data and payment information. Finally, field sampling can be used to determine when crush should start for a particular lot, and the harvest schedule can be organized for the grower’s delivery date and crush volumes.

Orion Wine Software Vineyard Module
Orion’s Vineyard Management module tracks the vineyard information and activities down to the sub-block level. The software allows entry for all vineyard activities and can schedule and track them. The results when entered provide a complete history of block, sub-block or vineyard. The module is integrated with Blend Winery Management software and provides a complete picture of the vineyard activities and how those decisions affect the final wine.

Wine Management Systems Vineyard Module
The grower and vineyard-management module provides wineries easy access to current and historical vineyard and fruit data, helping vintners stay on the same page with growers and their own estate vineyard management. The module provides grower information including contract details and vineyard detail for estate vineyards and contract grower vineyards down to sub- block level. Financial data is collected with year-to-date comparisons, seasonal conditions and key growth stages.

Other information collected in this m odule includes:
• Cost per ton
• Gallon yield per ton
• Cost per gallon
• Estimated tons
• Trending graph of key metrics (such as pre-harvest Brix and pH readings)
• Detailed weigh tag work orders with harvest data and tank assignments

Wine Management Systems is one of the early adopters of cloud-based software systems. Software as a service generally provides the same type of program, but you access it through the Internet and it does not require installation of the software on your device. There are tremendous benefits of this type of software delivery, including always having the most up-to-date software and lower initial cost of entry.

Winemaker’s Database Vineyard Operations Module
The WMDB Vineyard Module has an input screen to enter information about grape sources, including vineyard attributes such as soils, rootstocks, clones and more. There is a place to enter historical information of interest to the winemaker, since sometimes it is important to know material applications, vineyard operations, irrigation, rainfall and phenological data. The module is integrated with the bulk wine tracking features of WMDB. Screens provide access to the history of each vineyard block included in a particular blend as well as a display of which tanks contain grapes from particular blocks.

The four companies in the winery-centric section cover a rich feature set of functionality. Just because something is missing from one of the listings above doesn’t necessarily mean the feature is not included with their software. Often it is found in another module or place in the program. That is the most difficult part of trying to make good sense of these very complex programs. If you are going to trust your business future and economic livelihood to this data, it probably would be a good idea to put more effort into this software choice than just about any other activity.

The software companies in this section (including Agcode, Fairport, Treasury Wine Estates-iCropTrak, Trimble Navigation and Premiere Viticultural Services) are vineyard-centric in their software design and approach software from a farming background. Early on some software developers had grapegrowing as one of their crops, and they wrote software for that sector. However most have approached software for farmers from a variety of other crops and ultimately added coverage for grapes. Consequently, there is some variation in how grape farming practices are integrated into software functionality.

AgCode Vineyard Module
This company brings a comprehensive mobile vineyard data-collection system to the vineyard and/or the winery. The software provides for vineyard payroll with a contractor as well as chemical and equipment tracking. The module can capture business intelligence that can be tailored for any scale of vineyard operation. By entering the information into the database, the vineyard will likely increase productivity and efficiency by capturing crop conditions, estimates and maturity information in the field. This allows for scheduling work orders in a timely manner.

Since AgCode has been around a while, its software has become one of the most complete vineyard solutions. It is capable of using the full spectrum of vineyard tools to integrate field inspection, grower management and ranch activities into an operational budget. It also provides for planning and analysis.

AgCode is a farmer’s software. The icons and the content reflect what the farmer has been doing in the past, but now it’s in digital form. It is based on multiple crops but has all the detail you need to plant vines, keep track of all the inputs and outputs, and then hopefully make a return on your investment.

Fairport has coined the term PAM, which stands for Production, Analysis and Management. This system can increase productivity and profitability by saving time and helping to improve farm management practices, provide timely data for review, reduce production, fertilizer and chemical costs, which can optimize a vineyard’s yield or increase quality of the grapes harvested.

Fairport has a large number of users in Australia (more than 4,500). They have begun an international effort to expand their product services and now have an office in the United States.

To be a profitable farmer in today’s world, you need access to your historical data. Reportability functions are an absolute necessity and require access to your historic data quickly. Fairport helps this access compared with the traditional filing systems. Fairport claims it is as simple as keeping a daily diary, with the same input time but taking little time getting the information back out. Budgeting and planning are important functions to a well-operated farm, and the features offered are useful tools for creation. Following those decisions to keep you on track. Similarly a fertilizer and chemicals database is already in the program to increase the ease of setup. Fairport sports a pocket PAM, which can offer the timesavings of mobile data input. Their mapping tool is useful for both quick data entry and reading reports. Fairport has designed PAM a tool for centralizing data in one package so new staff members are quickly up to speed with all historical data in one space.

The PAM system has a modular set up so you can buy what you need now and upgrade later, whether it is the mapping function, the Farmstar Precision farming or Pocket PAM for iPad/Android.

The Fairport program seems to be quite complete, with just about any feature that you may need for every aspect of a vineyard. The precision ag tools allow users to produce visual representations of the data in many different formats.

Treasury Wine Estates—iCropTrak
Many of you may know Treasury Wine Estates as a large Australian wine company. They embarked on a program to get their farmers on board with a simple, centralized, iPad-based software system for vineyard information. You don’t need WiFi in order to use this software. It has grown into its own stand-alone product and has expanded into areas including social media, where its mapping functions can be utilized. In this program, one can be ready for soil sampling anytime, anywhere, with iCropTrak Soil. iCropTrak Soil users can to create grower, farm, field, zones and sample points that can be layered with other raster and vector data. The program allows the grower to quickly and easily take samples using grid, zone and randomization parameters to get accurate data and send the results through Dropbox and/or email. iCroptrak also ensures sampling consistency season after season.

iCropTrak users can insert a field map from an NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) or other scouting imagery, then enter harvest, planting, ditching and tiling data to use iCropTrak Soil. The software allows users to make new layers to include lines, points and boundaries/zones to improve vineyard processes and understanding.

The next level of the program is the “field management” module, which includes iCropTrak Scout; an upgrade to the “total farm management” level accesses iCropTrak Complete.

The program comes in three versions: one just for soil management, one for managing fields and, finally, one for the entire farm.

Trimble Navigation Viticulture and Permanent Crop Solutions
Trimble Navigation is a large company specializing in GPS services. It has modules and mapping tools you can purchase and integrate into your current software systems. Trimble states, “Your challenge is to produce a high-quality wine or other value-added crop while increasing profits, reducing costs and respecting the environment.” To that end, they have created precision viticulture and permanent crop solutions to help you identify in-field variability, improve vineyard and orchard management and create a sustainable operation.

Premiere Viticultural Service
Premiere Viticultural is the one program that was designed to concentrate on viticulture from the ground up. That fact is reflected in the language used to describe operations and approach. You won’t find a lot of AgCode farmerese here.

The vineyard software from Premiere Viticultural Service includes three modules: PremiereData, PremierDecision and PremiereVision. The data module, called PremiereData, begins the program organization. The next step, the PremierDecision module, is where users begin the implementation and management of the data by making data-based decisions. All this is finally brought together in the PremiereVision Module, which encapsulates users’ long-term vineyard goals.

The Premiere Viticultural Service philosophy states, “From the soil and the vines to the harvest and the finished wine: each step matters.” They don’t want you to have to start over again, so the program helps you take advantage of your work and the lessons learned. Each year you should start off where you stopped last year. The company wants grapegrowers and winemakers to have easy-to-understand analyses that ensure the steps taken lead to higher crop quality and profitability.

Growing grapes in today’s climate is increasingly complex and challenging. Premiere software brings state-of-the-art viticultural techniques and materials to address issues such as berry set, vine health and cluster. They claim to help growers achieve crop uniformity, maintain soil fertility, irrigation levels and management of grape quality. The software provider has developed custom plans to reduce farming costs, improve grape quality and improve communications and relations with wineries or other grape customers. Using their planning and decision-making capabilities should allow you to manage your vineyards more cost effectively.

In this section of software for vineyards, the vendors are larger companies appealing to larger-sized businesses that need data across a larger array of crop types so that they can have a uniform platform to manage and make decisions. You can tell a company like Cyret has its eye on the larger corporate clients when the software they are selling informs the customer that growers, packers, shippers and processors are using enterprise management techniques, and the software on which they base their product is produced by Oracle.

Similarly CDMS, Mapshots and Neal Carter Associates also focus on large companies that service all types of agriculture, only one of which is the vineyard. It is hard to tell the extent to which vineyard-specific software is more or less detailed than this software, because the feature set that they advertise is roughly the same. It most likely has to do with the ability of the software to handle a larger variety of discrete tasks, and then the difficulty of integrating it all into one master program so the larger and more diverse companies can have one platform to manage all of their agricultural businesses.

Two companies, IVS Software and AMS Winery Software Integrated Winery Information Systems, have fully integrated software packages that can take you from land purchase to delivering a finished bottle of wine to the customer and everything in between. Due to the complexity of the integration and the multiple business types in the wine and grape industry, it is not surprising that the more integrated the software, the more expensive it can become. For that reason, AMS software only sells the vineyard package to wineries that are already large and complex.

IVIS software
The IVIS is a set of integrated functions developed specifically with and for winegrowers and winemakers. In general, the functions are designed for ease of use, flexibility and navigation through the site. The goal is to capture, maintain and analyze process information in a way that enhances the probability of delivering high quality grapes to the winery. Their approach is to ease data-entry effort and apply the data to multiple purposes. A few of the highlights of features for vineyards include:
• Produces detailed grower weight reports, optionally including quality and extra effort (sorting) details.
• Produces payroll summary by worker, vineyard, domain, etc.
• Vineyard work tracked at any level (block, sub-block, rows, individual vines—any combination)
• Vineyard treatments automatically calculated by acreage.

Vineyard and winery work is diverse, and staff is kept small. This creates a situation where it is highly likely much of the information available is not captured. The IVIS software attempts to retain and utilize as much of the important information as possible. IVIS’ strong suit is its flexible and unique database, which provides great degree of customizability while maintaining access to archived information .

AMS integrated winery information systems
Founded in 1981, Advanced Management Systems (AMS) is one of the early providers of fully integrated software for the wine industry. They support and sell a comprehensive suite of software supporting wineries from planting a vineyard to taking the customer’s check to the bank to reporting back to investors and everything in between. They have 25 flexible and full-featured modules designed to work together seamlessly. It is important to note that AMS wrote the software and owns it, so it can be changed to meet the customers’ needs.

This section includes two companies that have software for a special purpose. If your company philosophy is to create sustainable agriculture, then this software will help guide your process development to reach that goal and to make a profit along the way.

IOS is the company that can fill in the gap if you cannot find the exact software to meet your needs, or if your company has a special software need and you want someone who understand the agricultural market that we embrace as part of the wine industry.

SureHarvest’s “five P’s of sustainability” (principles, processes, practices, performance, progress) is a method of aligning farming strategy with measurable progress to drive value. They have spent a decade in development of this strategic approach and wclaim to be helping organizations throughout the agri-food value chain become more successful.

Their set of solutions pursue sustainability strategies—farming-management software, sustainability management software, sustainability consulting services and third-party sustainability certification—throughout the agri-food supply chain. Their clients span the agri-food value chain and benefit from SureHarvest’s market expertise and experience working with growers, packer/shippers, processors, wineries and their trade associations.

IOS Custom Vineyard Software Development
IOS employees have been working in agriculture and/or software development since 1975. Their interaction with members of the agricultural community has fostered an awareness of the desire for systems that are powerful and fully functional without appearing complex or being difficult to master. In order to design a customized program, they devote time and resources to finding out what the customer wants while doing everything from working with field workers to holding meetings in corporate boardrooms.

Software for vineyards is diverse and complex, and picking the right software company should be a carefully thought-out process, as this decision will be with you for many years. Flexibility and experience, but not the only ones. New companies can have just as big an impact since they are using newer technologies. The cost of that decision can be some difficulties in implementation as problems are worked out with a newer company. The bottom line: Get your software sooner rather than later. It is not a question of if but when.

Richard Carey, Ph.D., is president of Vitis Wine Center and winemaker for Tamanend Winery in Lancaster, Pa. He has written numerous articles about new technologies for the grape and wine industry in Wine East and Wines & Vines magazines.

Currently no comments posted for this article.