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From: Dan Dubrick
To: All
Date: 2003-07-12 23:32:00
Subject: 7\07 ESA - Imaging vineyards from space will help Europe's wines

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European Space Agency

Press Release

Imaging vineyards from space will benefit Europe's wines

7 July 2003
 
Space data are set to become an added ingredient in future European
wines. ESA is contributing Earth Observation data and expertise to a
European Commission-backed project called Bacchus. 
 
The aim is to chart the continent's vineyards in unprecedented
detail, and provide vine growers with information tools to improve
production management and guarantee grape quality.

From Bordeaux to Frascati, there is good reason why wines are always
known for their home region. As any connoisseur will explain, a
grape's distinctive flavour is derived from localised characteristics
such as soil type, microclimate, altitude and the slope of the
ground. So wine-growing regions (and sub-regions within them) are
legally demarcated as an assurance of quality - known as Controlled
Origin Denominations (Appellation d'Origine in France, Denominazione
d'Origine Controllata in Italy).

Europe is the most important wine producer in the world, and the
Common Market Organisation for Wine (CMO) requires all wine-producing
EU states to keep a register of vine production. However there is no
standardised way of doing this: it is variously - and painstakingly -
done by a combination of fieldwork, vine producer interviews and
photo-interpretation of aerial photography.

In an attempt to create a more standardised alternative, the
part-EC-funded Bacchus consortium has been started by some 14 public
and private bodies from four wine-producing countries: Italy, France,
Spain and Portugal.

"A strong point of the Bacchus consortium is the very complete range
of involved users we have, covering different aspects of vine
cultivation," said Manuel Bea of prime contractor Geosys. "In Spain
and Portugal the users are governmental organisations involved in
applying EC policy, while in France and Italy users belong to the
wine production sector. The French GeoDASEA offers technical support
to grape producers at a regional level. The Italian users are
consortia of the Controlled Origin Denomination areas for Prosecco
and Frascati, and the last user is a private French organisation
which federates 2200 wine co-operatives."

The intention behind Bacchus is to use georeferenced aerial and
satellite images to create a specialised geographical information
system (GIS) tool for use in vine production. As well as enabling
improved record keeping and statistics, this GIS tool will also help
with land management. All relevant data on any given wine-growing
region - vine inventories, administrative boundaries, slope angle
relative to the Sun - can be made integrated into GIS and made easily
accessible to vineyard managers. Meteorological data can also be
added to the system. 

For improved vineyard management, all these distinct data sets can be
digitally combined together - a process like overlaying maps on top
of one another - to obtain new and useful information, such as
locating optimal areas for particular vine types, or where best to
expand a given Controlled Origin Denomination's boundaries, or
conversely identifying the least productive land so it can be grubbed
up.


Automated vineyard recognition
 
French research institute Cemagref has the demanding role of
developing pattern recognition technology for the automatic
recognition of vineyards within satellite or aerial images.

"We have previous experience of image processing for agricultural
applications," said Michel Deshayes of Cemagref. "For instance by
textural analysis - automated recognition of distinctive structural
elements - we have been able to distinguish weeds from crops on
aerial images. We also worked on a robot that killed weeds with
electricity to lessen use of pesticides, using leaf shape to identify
weeds in close-up. 
 
"For Bacchus our approach will be to combine both textural and shape
information. At the scale of high-resolution satellite or aerial
images, vineyard structure induces specific periodic patterns and
spatial distributions."

The Bacchus project began earlier this year with a survey of pilot
sites, including Italy's Frascati vineyards, where vines have been
cultivated since Roman times - now home to ESA's Earth Observation
centre ESRIN. The sites are being regularly re-imaged to acquire data
on how vineyards develop through the growing season. 

High-resolution multispectral satellite images of up to 0.65 m
resolution are being acquired, as well as aerial photographs at
higher resolution still - simulating next generation Earth
Observation satellite data soon to become available. The aerial
cameras are fitted with GPS so their photos can be precisely
geo-referenced for integration within GIS systems.

The Frascati Controlled Origin Denomination consortium represents
some 700 grape producers and 30 wine makers in the area. "We know
this project is the way to go in the future," said Fulvio Comandini
of the consortium. "Bacchus will give us - and all the other
Controlled Origin Denominations across the country too - a customised
information system to more precisely manage our entire system of
production and also a fully objective means of guaranteeing the
quality of our wine to the market." 

For ESA the Bacchus project represents the agency's first involvement
in the emerging precision farming area, using Earth Observation data
to improve agricultural efficiency.

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