Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW) is establishing a new innovation accelerator to help the wine industry meet new challenges. The effort is known as Sonoma VITS (Vineyard Innovation Through Science). It is designed to bring industry members into close contact with innovators that have viable solutions to agricultural issues.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity,” said SCW President Karissa Kruse. “It is to really formalize a process to bring those organizations that have innovative ideas and tools, and resources, directly to our local grape growers and create that forum to actually be able to get some of the projects off the ground and really do that matching of local grape growers to those innovators to do some pilot programs.”
Building connections between the entrepreneurial community and the agriculture industry has been a major priority in recent years. The advancement of agricultural technologies has picked up steam as more communication and coordination occurs between the two sectors. Sonoma VITS will mark the first time that an innovation accelerator has been developed specifically for the wine industry. “We hear from a lot of organizations and companies that have these innovative products and they don’t know exactly how to outreach to our local grape growing community. So, we figured what better way than to do what we do well at the Winegrowers which is really to be that bridge between farming and other partners,” Kruse noted.
Over the course of the next 60 days, a panel of grower leaders and industry experts will be assembled. The 15-person panel will help evaluate the proposals from potential partners to select the projects with the most potential. The first innovation accelerator presentations are expected to begin sometime this summer. Kruse noted there has been significant enthusiasm for the program and what it can help produce for the industry.
“I think that’s sort of the magic of this is that we can pilot something, we get to learn, get some on-the-ground experience, and then share that,” said Kruse. “We look forward to doing that and hoping we can find even one big idea that can make a difference that we can then share and scale with the rest of the industry.”