Grapes in a vineyard.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has unveiled an innovative technology which helps water vineyards based on data generated by satellites.

The service, named GrapeLook, uses earth observation data and field measurements to calculate how much to water vineyards, and when, according to the ESA. It employs satellite remote sensing to accurately assess how much water is released from the plants and how much biomass is grown. A processing centre will receive moisture readings through a satellite link.

A Google Maps-based website will display the information thus processed to help vine growers and water managers. The system can provide accurate updates on soil moisture and irrigation requirements. The system was trialled among selected vine growers in South Africa early this year.

Information on crop growth and water consumption is vital for grape growers. GrapeLook can effectively monitor water stress and the irrigation profile of individual vineyards, while reducing labour and other costs, the ESA has said. It can boost the amount of grapes being harvested and also the quality of the wine - all the while using less water.

The technology was developed by WaterWatch and aided by the ESA.

"The trial period of this project showed that the farmers and water authorities were supportive of such a service. While it may take a few years to strengthen trust and awareness with these user communities, the South African authorities are willing to support a freely available GrapeLook service for another season," Olivier Becu, ESA technical officer, said.

Annemarie Klaasse, land and water use specialist at WaterWatch, said: "The GrapeLook service shows how satellite technology benefits farmers. It not only helps farmers to reduce water usage, it also increases sustainability and production. Next steps are to expand the service to other crops and areas."