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Argentine Winery Harvests Crops With RFID

Bodega Norton uncorks a tracking and payment solution to improve productivity.
By Jill Gambon
Feb 19, 2013—Like a good bottle of wine that finds the perfect balance between acidity and sugar, Argentina's Bodega Norton Winery has harmonized old-world and modern harvesting processes. The winery, founded in 1895 by an English railway engineer, is located at the foot of the Andes Mountains, in the province of Mendoza, the country's top wine-producing region. Bodega Norton's 1,700 acres are spread across five vineyards and produce a variety of wines, including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, chenin blanc, malbec, merlot, petit verdot, syrah and Riesling. In 1989, the winery was purchased by Austrian businessman Gernot Langes-Swarovski, of the Swarovksi crystal empire.

Since then, Bodega Norton has raised its international profile, and the company now sells its wines within 60 countries. Along the way, the winery has garnered various awards. In 2012, Wine Enthusiast magazine named the firm's chief winemaker, Jorge Riccitelli, as its Winemaker of the Year.

The Bodega Norton Winery combines old-world and modern harvesting processes for its grapes.

While its reputation was growing, the winemaker's harvesting system became outdated. Field workers were given color- and shape-coded plastic and aluminum chips for each bin of grapes they picked. At the end of each week, their compensation was calculated based on the number and types of chips they turned in to vineyard managers. During any given week, thousands of chips would be distributed and collected from all workers. But the process was complicated, the company reports, because workers often lost the chips, and tracking the payments on paper proved to be error-prone and unreliable. What's more, employees and supervisors were spending one day each week collecting chips and processing payments, instead of harvesting grapes. The loss of an entire workday every week—especially during the peak harvest season, in February and March—was critical.

To wring out those inefficiencies, Bodega Norton introduced a radio frequency identification solution in 2011 that provides workers with an extra picking day each week, and improves visibility into operations. Vineyard managers now have more accurate information regarding the amounts and types of grapes being harvested.

The company introduced an RFID solution that provides workers with an extra picking day each week.
"This solution has drastically improved Bodega Norton's productivity through more efficient use of resources," says Pablo Minatelli, the vineyard's manager and project leader. "We have also discovered that the new system generates more detailed, real-time information that can be used to guide better management decisions."
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