Chilean wine is renowned for its excellence and quality. Different stocks and vineyards have been recognized internationally for the fine flavors of their wines in major viticultural events. A suitable climate and extensive experience as producers since the end of the 19th century have favored this positive development of the Chilean industry, which in 2009 exported 6.9 million hectoliters, situating the country as the fifth largest exporter in the world.
Innovation plays a predominant role in this successful process. Chilean companies have committed to protecting the environment and promoting research, aware that international consumers require a value added to the products they intend to purchase. In a further effort to improve quality and management during the wine-making process, the Universidad de Talca, together with the Fund for Competitive Innovation (FIC) and the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), will create a “Digital cartography of Chilean vineyards in the Maule Region”. This region was chosen because of its great viticultural potential.
Basically, the objective of this virtual map is to define strategies and public/private actions oriented toward improving the quality of the product, as well as monitoring the volumes produced every year. “At the end of 2007 we realized that there was a need to have this information available because, for the second consecutive year, there had been an accumulated stock of wine that gave rise to a drop in prices”, explained the Geomatics director of the University of Talca, Carlos Mena Frau, who also acts as coordinator of the project.
FIA supervisor Marcelo Cánepa adds that the map “will not necessarily translate into greater quality in the production of wine, but it will improve the management process, an aspect that is valued by the consumers. The idea is to standardize the data and make it possible to obtain statistics and historical reports”.
To carry out this ambitious project, a detailed plan was drawn up in September 2009 that included, first of all, the collection and systematization of the base information. This subsequently led to the designing of questionnaires and their application to producers, followed by the production and integration of geospatial information regarding relevant attributes. Finally, the design and development of a “property registry viewer” will be carried out, enabling the results to be disseminated and transferred. This is scheduled to be in operation by 31 August 2011.
This information will include the spatial distribution of the wine-producing sectors in the area under study; their technical, productive and social characteristics; the identification of grapevine nurseries, winemaking cellars, producers of wine grapes and the processing, storage and marketing capacities they possess. The data will directly benefit the viticultural organizations and all the producers situated in the different areas of the Maule Region.
The Ministry of Agriculture will have access to the general geographic and descriptive information regarding the production properties and relevant aspects of the wine-making chain, while the users registered at the digital platform (who will pay a fee that has not yet been decided) may consult information in the form of graphs, tables and statistical summaries. Non-registered users will only have access to information of a general nature.
The initiative, financed by the Fund for Competitive Innovation of the Maule Region, has an approximate cost of US$ 750,000. At the beginning it had contemplated encompassing all the vineyards in the country. However, as it is a pioneering initiative, it was decided to implement it solely in the Maule Region for the time being. In subsequent years it is planned to continue the project in the Regions of Valparaíso, Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins and Bío Bío.