Spotlight on Award Winner: Fetzer Vineyards Leverages IoT & Big Data to Stay Ahead of Water Waste

by | Oct 15, 2020

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[Editor’s note: the call for submissions for the 2021 Environment + Energy Leader Awards will be announced this month. Stay tuned for more information. Fetzer Vineyards was a recipient of a 2020 Top Project of the Year Award.]

Citing data from the World Economic Forum, California winery Fetzer Vineyards recognizes water as a top risk. The winery has focused on reducing its water intensity for decades. In 2017, Fetzer Vineyards installed cloud-based water metering technology from the Bellingham, Washington-based company Apana to quickly detect leaks and waste water incidents in real time. Using IoT technology with its water stewardship program allowed the winery to reach its 2020 water efficiency goal early.

The winery’s approach to reducing water intensity involved analyzing a host of interrelated systems. Nearly every water-using application and process across their Hopland, California-based campus required monitoring to achieve reductions. Using a combination of precision meters and Apana IoT devices, water at Fetzer Vineyards gets continually monitored and measured from more than two dozen endpoints, while seven “virtual” sensors collect data from other key functional areas. Data is collected in real time from wells, cooling towers, red and white barrel rooms, crossflow, bottling, refrigeration, and maintenance operations.

Fetzer Vineyards said that, with visibility into specific functional areas, they can immediately respond to waste events, compare current use against historical benchmarks, and strategically plan for future production cycles. Besides relying on cloud-based water metering technology, they also use worms and microbes to treat wastewater efficiently. The ongoing use of peracetic acid in the winery eliminates the need for a second rinse during sanitation, while upgrades to the winery’s centrifuge system to recirculate cooling water have reduced the water required during a key winemaking process.

As the largest B Corp winery in the world, Fetzer Vineyards said that it actively participates in water policy initiatives, including advocating for the water efficiency measures Assembly Bill No. 1668 and Senate Bill No. 606 that passed in California.

The winery aims to use technology to achieve its sustainability goals and manage water the way it manages other assets, like inventory. Since 2015, it has decreased its water intensity by almost 25%, from 3.65 to 2.75 gallons of water used per gallon of wine produced. The use of cloud computing to monitor water leaks was a key driver in its ability to reduce water intensity and exceed its 2020 water reduction goal by 10% two years ahead of schedule. And, because energy use is closely tied to water use, this technology contributed to a reduction of more than 10,000 KWh of energy in addition to saving millions of gallons of water annually.

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