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Hydroponic Vineyard

Having just finished writing an article on hydroponic agriculture, it brought me to think about the feasibility of a vineyard run on similar lines. Now I know one’s first thoughts are ‘don’t be stupid’, as were mine, but giving it some serious thought (especially with Greta and the Domesday Band in mind) it could be doable. Any thoughts?

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Doable, yes. Desirable? Not for wine…

Grapes would be like the tasteless tomatoes, aubergines and peppers supplied to supermarkets from hydroponic greenhouses in Holland.

I reckon they’d make tasteless wine. Many traditional regions forbid the watering of vineyards. Vine roots go 30 feet or more in search of water to sustain them. For good wine small grapes with flavour, not ones swelled with water, are wanted.

The other factor is sunlight. Hot sunny areas that make the majority of wine are short of water, so where would the water come from for hydroponics, and why go to the bother and expense when you can stick a vine in the soil and let it fend for itself.

If growing hydroponically in order to grow grapes where they couldn’t otherwise grow, I reckon that would call for artificial lighting also, which needs electricity. What would Greta say about it?

Just my two pennyworth ….

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I can remember reading about hydroponics several years ago - one major issue was their use with perennials and especially those that take several years to produce fruit…grape vines

Wonder if advances in the methodology mean its now feasible - both technically and financially

tasteless - yes, if I remember correctly trying to get the nutrient mix in the solution is critical to flavour…but expensive, hence why cheap mass produced products come from simple solutions

the major benefit of hydroponics is the saving in water (upto 1/20th of consumption?) - which seems bizarre whey it has hydro in the tittle and you grow the plants in a water based solution! - but this isn’t really an issue (currently) for wine grapes as, like you say, they normally don’t get watered apart from the skies…but will it become more of an issue in the future or will we simply move the areas that grow vine and not irrigate ?

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I’ve been having this discussion on and off for a while with my Brother-in-law (who is an aquaponic farmer). Possibly from a technical point of view, yes. As @peterm has suggested, probably not the best idea from a flavour point of view.

From an economic point of view it’s also not the greatest. With current models at least, hydro/aquaponics are only really viable with annuals rather than perennials.

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Yes, I didn’t think enough about it. With annuals you get a crop in around 4-6 months of planting, and as soon as the crop is harvested you can stop the water and nutrients.

With wine grapes you need to wait for three years as a minimum to get usable (tho’ not great) grapes, and you need to keep the nutrient water flowing all year round.

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Certainly not just annual crops. Hydroponics are now the norm in the cultivation of tropical fruits like avocado and chirimoya in Málaga and Granada provinces. Saves massive amounts of precious water.

But yeah, not for wine. Not unless you want to grow rubbish wine in a desert, which doesn’t seem too bright an idea.

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I had to Google that.

Turns out its also known as Custard Apple which I loved, having had it on the buffet at a Christmas holiday on Lanzarote. Delicious. That was the only time I’ve seen it.

There are parts of Australia where huge agribusinesses are literally draining the rivers dry to irrigate vineyards that produce wines on epic scales for anonymous supermarket consumption.

Under the circumstances, I don’t think quality is the major concern (it’s unlikely anyone on this board ever does or will drink the stuff) but environmental impact that is the more pressing concern. Vines can be thirsty.

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Yes, sure. Always use the Spanish word as it’s of Andean origin and in Europe pretty much only grown in certain (frost free) areas of S Spain. Should you be in the area you can buy wonderful huge trays direct from the coops throughout the winter months. I buy them here sometimes in Asian shops, but they never sell the class A ones.

Canarias has a lot of tropical stuff, of course, but it’s all small-scale (apart from the bananas of course!) and only sold locally.

Apart from S America, custard apples also grown in S India and SE Asia, and presumably Australia too. One of my very favourite fruits.

In terms of other managed agriculture type vine growing, there are places like http://www.rooftopreds.com/ which is on the roof of a huge Navy warehouse in Brooklyn New York.

They grow their grapes in troughs. I can’t imagine the quality is amazing given the lack of roots, but I guess this could be simulated with correct feeding and careful nutritional balancing a la hydroponics, but also with some soil there.

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I am now wondering if they could with soil analysis and lots of chemistry/feeding simulate different terroir depending on what grape they’re growing.