Alumni use skills learned at CSUMB for ‘precision viticulture’

By PATIA STEPHENS

Gregory Gonzalez (SBS ’09) and Jonathan Vevoda (SBS ’12) launched their careers at CSU Monterey Bay. The two alumni use geographic information systems (GIS) skills they learned at CSUMB in their jobs at Scheid Vineyards.

A world-class winery headquartered in Greenfield, Scheid Vineyards comprises 13 ranches with 4,200 acres producing 38,000 tons of grapes a year – resulting in some 40 million gallons of wine.

Gonzalez and Vevoda, with their boss Tyler Scheid, are at the forefront of the emerging “precision viticulture” industry, in which GIS and other high-tech tools turn the art of winemaking into a profitable – and palatable – science.

Both majored in Social and Behavioral Sciences and started at Scheid as interns, becoming full-time employees after graduation.

Gonzalez came to CSUMB as a soccer player transferring from Oregon. He turned to GIS after receiving some good advising.

“Sharon Anderson emailed me and said, if you take one more class, you can get a minor in Environmental Science,” Gonzalez said.

He started at Scheid in 2009, using global positioning systems (GPS) and GIS to remap boundaries, label “blocks” of vines and estimate crop yields.

A Salinas High School graduate, Vevoda earned a concentration in GIS after his research revealed it was one of the top emerging career paths. GIS combines his interests in the outdoors, maps and technology.

“It’s a good balance between working on computers and working in the field,” Vevoda said.

His first project for Scheid – also his senior capstone project – was developing a harvest safety rating system, the first of its kind. The program measures and rates slopes, which helps the winery prevent accidents by allocating more experienced personnel to steeper sections. Identifying slope, along with aspect (slope direction) and solar radiation, also helps with vineyard site selection.

“I can look at a location and tell whether this lot will get fruit ripe when we need it to be,” Vevoda said. “If we can see it’s going to be in shade by 2 o’clock, it’s probably not a good place to plant vines.”

Efficiency is the goal of precision viticulture, Gonzalez said.

“It’s amazing what you can do with a smartphone,” Gonzalez said. “We’re all engineers. Farmers are engineers. We’re turning data into information you can act on.” MB

 

More information: scheidvineyards.com

 

Photos: Vineyard and map courtesy Scheid Vineyards; bottom photo by Patia Stephens

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