Wireless Crop Protection

University of California, Berkeley, 2004 - $15,900

This E-Team developed a wireless frost protection system for California vineyards. When the temperature in vineyards reaches frost levels (38-40 degrees), the system automatically turns on frost-prevention equipment and alerts the field manager of any trouble. The system consists of temperature-monitoring Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) deployed in the field, a computer interface showing the field manager a map of the vineyard and the temperature at each WSN, and ultra-bright LEDs in the field acting as beacons that communicate system operation and temperature zones, allowing a field manager to drive around and gauge vineyard condition from afar.

The current method of protecting crops from frost is simple and effective, but antiquated: when temperature dips, an alarm wakes the field manager, who drives around the vineyard checking thermometers and manually activating wind generators, which pull in warm air from higher elevations. Field managers usually do not go back to sleep to ensure no problems arise with the generators, leading to extreme sleep deficiency during frost spells. The E-Team's system automatically turns on the generators and allows the field manager to check on their operation remotely.

The E-Team consisted of two mechanical engineering PhD students, a mechanical engineering graduate student, an MBA candidate, and an industrial design student. Advisors to the team included the director of the Management of Technology program at UC Berkeley, a winegrowing manager for Gallo Vineyards, a viticulturalist, and a product design and strategy consultant.