GIS software is the
organizational tool, allowing todays super-fast computers to handle the
numerous (and sometimes quite extensive) layers with ease. The software tools
Camera and others at Hess Collection are using include ArcView® with the
Spatial Analyst® extension (by ESRI) and VESTRA AgPlan® (by VESTRA
GIS introduction at Hess
Don Gordon, a Senior GIS
Analyst with VESTRA Resources, Inc., initially presented the capabilities of
the ESRI and VESTRA software products to Camera. In addition to Gordons
demonstrations, Camera explains, "The free GIS software that is available
from ESRIs website was very instrumental in convincing me that [GIS]
would be of great value to us as a company."
Value of a good database
One key element critical
to the success of a GIS is the initial database design. The completeness and
accuracy of the initial database determines the type and quality of analysis
possible, as well as the products available in the final system. Some of the
first questions to be answered are: What are the problems to be solved? What
are the final products to be made reports, working maps,
presentation-quality maps and how frequently might each be generated?
Who is the intended audience for these products?
Gathering answers to the questions
What are the problems? Who is going to use the system? What final
products are needed? is the needs assessment phase of the project"
explains Dean Roczen, VESTRAs GIS analyst supervising the Hess Collection
The needs assessment is used for the
subsequent database design. Then the database design ensures our client
receives a final product that gives them the information and analysis they
need. We will standardize information in the database so our clients are able
to have consistent expectations. A mouse-click on any vineyard map display will
identify the information they expect, such as block and sub-block numbers,
rootstock, clones, date planted, and so forth."
Importance of positional accuracy
Another essential element
to the success of a GIS is the positional accuracy of the geographic data.
Remember that old computer saying "Garbage In, Garbage Out"? The same
holds true for todays modern GIS. Going back to our analogy, if the
quilts (the layers) are not positioned correctly on the bed (the project area),
the result (the GIS) looks very messy.
One solution to geographically control
the GIS is the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) to orient the precise
locations of "patches" within the "quilt." Another solution
is the use of orthophotographs (aerial photographs corrected not only for
variations in terrain but also for other geographic errors inherent to aerial
photographs). Hess Collection uses a GPS technician from VESTRA to gather
position coordinates of various features, such as vineyard blocks, preservation
oak trees, project boundaries, and underground pipeline locations.
On one property I needed to isolate
several areas that were restricted from planting," explains Camera.
"There were two archeological sites, one historical site, and at least two
botanical sites. We used a GPS unit to precisely outline these sites, so our
compliance to the law is well-documented."
Aerial or satellite imagery is another
data-rich source that can provide a wealth of information about where things
are located and what they look like.
Multi-spectral aerial or satellite
imagery (similar to that used in the NASA GRAPES project), uses different bands
of light. These bands can be either visible or not visible to the naked eye
(red, green, and blue bands are visible, and near infrared is not visible.) The
different bands can be combined to show the presence of chlorophyll and
moisture in vegetation. For instance one combination of bands, familiar as
infrared imagery, can show vigorous vegetation as bright red in the
Additional image analysis, such as an
NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) helps compensate for changing
illumination conditions, surface slope, aspect, and other extraneous features,
to give a more refined picture of vineyard health.
Multi-spectral imagery has been shown
effective in detecting vigor or stress in vegetation. Camera expects to use
multi-spectral aerial or satellite imagery to help assess plant health,
especially as spatial control is established throughout his project. This
spatial control will allow him to compare one years multi-spectral
imagery with next years imagery to get a picture of subtle changes in
vine health over time.
Additional benefits of a
At the Hess Collection,
one major goal is to incorporate information currently held by various
consultants and other external sources into the GIS. For example, CAD
(computer-aided design) files depicting irrigation layout diagrams and other
vineyard design elements from engineers, easement maps locating natural gas and
water pipelines, underground and overhead power lines from the local utilities
and municipalities, erosion control plans, topographic maps, and soil data will
all be in the GIS and instantly available to Camera.
One property we purchased recently
came with its own CAD files that were created and compiled as part of the
sellers development plans," notes Camera. "As part of our work
with VESTRA, these CAD linework files were converted to GIS layers that include
descriptive information, such as acres, length, or name, so the features are
more information-rich for analysis beyond simple mapping. Now, I have plantable
acres, restricted areas, a slope survey, soils maps, roads, fences, utilities,
well sites, culverts, tree lines, buildings, and more. I wanted this data at my
fingertips. We are at a time technologically where this can all be stored,
manipulated, analyzed, and displayed in-house."
An additional benefit of a GIS is the
ability to do spatial analysis, that might include a query selecting everything
within 30 feet of a certain point or creating an avenue of 50 feet in a
vineyard layout design. Within that queried space, spatial statistics are
available quickly, such as how many acres you are removing from your plantable
acres, if the spatial database is set up properly to give accurate
Vineyard design is a perfect exercise
for a robust spatial database and sophisticated software. Camera will use
VESTRA AgPlan software to anticipate vineyard development problems and resolve
them. For example, by using a contour-derived digital elevation model, which
describes topography, to overlay a proposed vineyard layout, he will be able to
use a spatial query of the slope on the proposed layout to look at potential
slope problems and then design vineyard blocks or row orientation to create a
favorable layout. This process of testing and design adjustment can be run many
times, until Camera is confident he has a successful design.
"The last thing that
needs to be said about GIS," adds Camera, "is that it is fun and
challenging, and very useful. It has given me a greater interest in the data
that is generated and helped me think about our vineyards in new ways. Very few
things have been as professionally stimulating to me as my involvement with