What exactly do satellites bring to vineyard monitoring?

Recently, we published two harvest reports about the 2022 vintage: Bordeaux 2022 and Barolo 2022. Our reports provide you with an additional view on vineyards, one coming from space and satellites. If you have ever wondered how exactly we are able to disclose insights about grape quality, weather information and monitor the growing seasons thanks to satellites, you are in the right place. In this article, we will explore the use of Earth Observation satellites, particularly optical sensors, in vineyard monitoring and how we developed our Saturnalia Evolution Index (SEI).

Satellites optical sensors

Optical sensors are the most commonly used type of Earth Observation satellite for vegetation monitoring. Their purpose is to capture the sun’s light reflected by the target (in Saturnalia case, vineyards) in multiple spectral bands, including multispectral and hyperspectral. What does that mean?

Multispectral satellites can record vineyards response in one or more infrared bands, collecting more information than standard photography – which obviously can capture only what is visible. In particular, infrared bands are essential in determining the presence of water and chlorophyll content. This is due to the higher reflectance of vegetation in infrared bands, allowing for the collection of such valuable information. 

Below you can see an example explaining what information corresponds to which infrared band.

Example of the reflectance curve in vegetation. (https://pages.cms.hu-berlin.de/EOL/gcg_eo/fig/s03_vegetation_spectrum.png)

The Saturnalia Evolution Index (SEI)

At Saturnalia we have developed our proprietary vegetation index, the Saturnalia Evolution Index (SEI) which condenses all information listed above. This index takes advantage of the several bands in the visible and infrared spectrum to measure chlorophyll, mesophyll, and water availability.

SEI is computed every time a satellite scans the area, providing continuous monitoring of the vineyard throughout the growing season. From the SEI values collected we derived the Saturnalia Variation Index (SVI), which summarizes the data with the help of 5 different vigour classes to provide an overall picture of the vineyard growth. 

Below you can see an example of SVI taken from our Bordeaux 2022 report

SVI map of Saint-Estèphe AOC (left) and pie chart with distribution of SVI classes (right) for vintage 2022.

Precipitation and temperatures

In addition to vegetation monitoring, satellites can also provide data on precipitation and temperature. Precipitation data is sourced from the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, a collaboration between NASA and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), providing next-generation observations of rain and snow worldwide.

Indeed, satellites are able to record the Land Surface Temperature (LST), a measure of the radiative skin temperature of the land surface. Satellites can therefore provide a mixture of bare soil and vegetation temperature: this is different from what ground weather stations do, which is to measure air temperature exclusively.

In conclusion, we tried to simplify and explain the very complex process that is behind satellite data collection. Best thing is, satellites are a costly-effective and scalable solution in vineyards monitoring. We do believe that, based on the large investments made into the aerospace industry (source), satellites are going to play an increasingly vital role within vine-growing and the general wine industry. 


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What exactly do satellites bring to vineyard monitoring?