‘Robotic’ wine: high-tech sensors to control the fermentation process

Archaeological research places the origin of wine in the Bronze Age, between 6000 and 5000 BC, in areas such as Georgia, Armenia, Sumeria and Iran. This alcoholic drink has accompanied practically all cultures, which have added technological advances to its production. Now, a revolutionary new feature is incorporated, some high-tech sensors that control the fermentation process.

Liquid sensor developed for the Visens project. / Dani Ortega.

These devices have been developed by a group from the Barcelona Institute of Microelectronics of the CSIC (IMB-CNM), within the framework of the Visens project, which seeks to apply the technology to wine fermentation and aging processes.

What are the devices of these ‘robotic’ wines like?

The IMB-CNM devices are “electronic microsensors with microfluidic systems manufactured on silicon that integrate other semiconductors that act as an active part in the detection of chemical species,” explains Stella VallejosCSIC researcher at the IMB-CNM and leader of the scientific contribution of the project. “They are capable of measuring chemical species in the vapor and liquid phase in real time”adds the researcher.

The first tests to evaluate the operation of the sensors during wine aging will be carried out in this year’s harvest, while commercial devices were used last year. For their part, the companies SC Robotics and Vega Instruments provide commercial devices capable of measuring other parameters such as temperature, density, and level of the wine during fermentation and/or aging.

What allows you to monitor wine fermentation

“Continuously monitor fermentations It allows you to standardize sample collection, reduce human error and, above all, be able to detect the moment when any deviation occurs. and correct it in time,” he explains. Victor Tirado, from the Innovi Cluster. Currently, fermentations are monitored once a day and The goal of the new sensors is to generate data every 15 minutes to ensure maximum product quality.

The implementation of “sensorization” options will reduce the costs of applications on farms, increase efficiency and allow full control of the entire process. “We are committed to digitization of key processes in wine production with a range of solutions that range from those already present on the market to innovative sensors that allow reducing the use of additives such as sulfur dioxide,” Tirado highlights.

The initiative requires constant exchange between the scientific and oenological teams of the different wineries. On the part of the IMB-CNM, two groups with different specialties are involved, one in gas sensors and the other in liquid sensors.

Adapt the sector to the challenges of the next 50 years

The project began at the beginning of 2022 and will continue until the end of 2024, although the first results are already being given. One of the main objectives is to modernize the technologies available to wineries so that they can face the challenges that climate change will pose in the sector over the next half century, whether in energy consumption, water availability or harvest analysis.

Visens (“Pilot test of integration of new generation sensors in Catalan wineries as a support method for decision making”) is a project financed through operation 16.01.01 of Cooperation for Innovation of the Rural Development Program of Catalonia 2014-2022 by the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda of the Generalitat of Catalonia.

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