Terraview is agtech for winemaking, and it’s tackling climate change for the industry
There are several moving parts when it comes to winemaking, from tending to grape vineyards on a property to harvest timing and production in winery facilities. Then the finished wine may be aged, before bottling and shipping to retail stores, restaurants, and the homes of its customers.
But for all its complicated steps, the process has remained very pen and paper. Though vast amounts of math and science are required, winery teams are left to create their own spreadsheets and models for determining how and what a particular vine, and later wine, may need.
Jeff Baccus, a senior viticulturist for advanced viticulture based in the Russian River Valley of California, has long shuffled between satellite images, soil moisture probes, irrigation data, and his own crop modeling for important decision-making data.
“The quality of wine is produced in the vineyard by careful management of the plant canopy, irrigation practices, and crop adjustments,” Baccus says. “Too often, we are reacting at the last moment, which tends to degrade quality and be a bit costly.”
That’s until Baccus started using Terraview, machine-learning software developed specifically for the wine industry. Now, all his data is stored on one platform that offers recommendations on best practices for many winemaking tasks. It has simplified a complex and time-consuming process.
Prateek Srivastava and Piyush Harsh cofounded Terraview as an operating system designed to help wine producers analyze data and make more educated decisions around climate change challenges in the vineyard and the winery. Launched in May 2021, it’s the first platform of its kind dedicated solely to the global wine industry. At the time of publishing, Terraview counted some of the biggest names in the business, including Pernod Ricard Spain and La Rioja Alta, as clients, and books one new winery client per day.
“Every year, one large wine-producing country is facing a climate challenge that impacts a lot of people, the 30 million people that are associated with this industry,” says Srivastava, who is also Terraview’s chief executive officer. “France just recorded the lowest ever harvest in its history. Last year, it was California. Before that, Australia. There is a lot to learn from how people are united by it.”
Srivastava aims to help increase the gross domestic product of the global wine industry by using data-driven technology to give providers forward-looking scenario recommendations. His software as a service (SaaS) platform measures everything from water and labor needs to crop yield management, disease impact, and carbon emissions. The more data a client adds to the system, the better the guidance will be. His clients have uploaded drone imagery of vineyards, captured oral histories of winemaking techniques, and shared Excel documents of data to the tool. The system then uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to make actual recommendations.
For example, anyone can log on to the Terraview mobile application and submit a photograph of a distressed plant. The system will then tell you what disease it’s suffering from, its nutrition deficiencies, how much water it needs, and other details to revive the vine. And that’s just the start.
“No longer do I have my crew irrigating the entire vineyard block, but I can have the team focus only on the vines that need it,” Baccus says of the tool. “These kinds of changes not only reduce soil erosion but increase the soil microbiome and carbon sequestration, which is so important to the longevity of the vineyard and the earth.”
Srivastava began looking at climate change in the food industry long before he decided to jump fully into the world of wine. He notes that for much of our civilization, the climate has held steady and allowed commodity crops to flourish. There was very little complexity to the yearly farming. Instead, it was very much a plug and play type of role.
That changed in his lifetime as the ramifications of climate change emerged. Our weather patterns sifted, areas warmed, and soils saw more and more nutrient deficiencies. For Srivastava, the aha moment came when his farmer uncle lost his entire crop for three years owing to climate variability. Seeing how that impacted people in the agricultural industry was the trigger for Srivastava’s mission to take up the climate change challenge.
He developed an interest in wine while studying the agricultural science behind different food products. Srivastava found that wine is the most complex agricultural vertical and sits squarely at the top of the specialty food chain. It’s estimated to grow in total worth to more than $500 billion dollars by 2027, according to the Statista Consumer Market Outlook. It impacts millions of workers across the entire world. And it was ripe for operational assistance.
I once asked a well-known Napa Valley winemaker how he tracks his massive amount of data—the grapevines in each block in the vineyard, and how they compare from year to year. The answer was not a product like Terraview. In fact, he couldn’t quite put it all in words. He just knows, as if there is a spreadsheet in his head.
That’s not a stand-alone anecdote. It’s a common occurrence, especially among traditional winemakers and viticulturists from California to France. For the rare few, it works. But it’s less sustainable for most businesses. So much data is actually lost, as winemakers move from company to company, patriarchs of famous estates pass away, and ownership changes. Unless information is properly archived, it’s not captured.
Srivastava knows this and knows people won’t necessarily input thousands of numbers from paper records into a system. So he has made it easy with Terraview. Wine producers can simply scan and send any amount of records to the Terraview team, who will analyze and input the data. If a winemaker has no time to even peruse the file cabinet, she can simply hit record and send voice notes to the Terraview team. It works in multiple languages, including Spanish, too.
“Compliance is now pushing the industry to record what they’re using and how much [especially for organic and biodynamic certifications],” Srivastava says. “But this sheer friction in data collection is why a lot of them are unable. I needed to make a tool that works like an appliance.”
Srivastava’s “appliance” has caught the eye of major investors, too. To date, Terraview has raised $4 million in seed capital. Its lead investor is Binny Bansal, ex-CEO of Flipkart, India’s largest e-commerce platform, which was acquired by Walmart in 2018.
Srivastava hopes to continue to grow Terraview in its second year of business. He has targeted small to medium-size wine businesses, which account for 90% of its users. (The other 10% include the top three wine producers in the world.) His segment, though, is right where he wants it: firms that Terraview can grow along with, especially as they build larger, successful businesses and maybe even purchase other wineries in the process.
He prices the product accordingly. Plans start at $1,500 for 50 hectares of vineyard, with an additional $30 per hectare for the base plan. To put that in perspective, it lands at less than 1% of a winery’s total production costs.
“We don’t want to create a product which is a monstrosity in price,” he notes. “We have more things to solve for, like distribution, access to capital, inefficiencies in the whole supply chain. It’s the start of a long-term relationship with them.”
For Baccus, the most exciting aspect of the platform is “the promise of machine learning.” As more of his colleagues in Napa Valley—and beyond—input data, the more precise the recommendations for everyone will be.
“We’ve known [about] these technologies for years,” Baccus adds. “Now, thanks to Terraview, they are in the hands of the farmer, updated in real time, and at an incredibly low cost.”
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