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Photo: Wine Australia

Where are Australia’s vineyards?

Market Bulletin | Issue 162
Photo: Wine Australia
25 Jun 2019
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How do you find and measure all of the vineyards in Australia? It is quite a challenge, as Australia covers 769 million hectares, of which approximately 2 in every 10,000 hectares are vineyard. A project funded by Wine Australia has risen to this challenge, with the total area and location of Australia’s vineyards being identified in the first ever National Vineyard Scan published last week.

The National Vineyard Scan was conducted on behalf of Wine Australia by Consilium Technology. It was carried out using a machine learning algorithm developed by Consilium Technology[1] with funding from Wine Australia and other sources[2]. The algorithm scanned more than 5 million hectares of satellite imagery (selected based on the approximate known locations of vineyards) and identified just under 150,000 hectares of vineyard area with an accuracy of 95 per cent compared with human manual labelling.

Total area of vineyards

The total reported area was 146,128 hectares. This compares with 135,133 hectares reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in the last vineyard survey conducted in 2015. While it is not possible to directly compare the numbers given the different methods, the updated figure points to a moderate growth in plantings over the three years, reflecting the balance between supply and demand in the Australian wine sector currently.

Vineyard length and location

The results of the National Vineyard Scan go much further than an overall vineyard area figure. The locations of all the vineyard blocks detected have been mapped, providing information that can be used for vineyard management, biosecurity, emergency response management and many other purposes.

For the first time, the total length of vine rows is also known: there are 463,718 km of winegrape vine rows in Australia – enough to wrap around the Earth 11 times. This information has applications in estimating yield and assigning resources to vineyard management tasks. The average density of vines was found to be 3.17 kilometres per hectare (km/ha), with the highest being in Geelong and Henty in Victoria (3.68 km/ha), and the lowest in Riverina, NSW (2.77 km/ha). See Figure 1.

Figure 1: A block in Margaret River with vine rows identified through the National Vintage Scan

A greater level of detail

The National Vineyard Scan has also calculated the area of vineyards within each recognised winegrowing region (geographical indication), updating the previous ABS figures from 2015. The largest region is the Riverland in South Australia, with a total vineyard area of 21,058 hectares (2000 hectares more than reported by the ABS), while the smallest is Hastings River in New South Wales, with just 13 ha of grapevines. The area in each geographical indication sub-region is also known for the first time, as the ABS survey did not record this level of detail. For example, in the Hunter region in New South Wales, more than 90 per cent of vineyards fall within the three sub-regions of Pokolbin, Broke Fordwich and Upper Hunter Valley (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: The Pokolbin sub-region (right) and part of the Broke Fordwich sub-region (left) and vineyard blocks identified in the National Vineyard Scan 2018

Introducing GAIA

The machine learning algorithm that was used to complete the National Vintage Scan is known as GAIA – which is both the name of the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth and an acronym for ‘Geospatial Artificial Intelligence for Agriculture’. It was recently recognised for innovation excellence at the 2019 SA & NT iAwards, winning three awards.

Australian Grapegrowers and winemakers will be able to view the vineyard locations in the GAIA interactive web app, to be launched at the Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference in late July 2019. As part of Wine Australia’s agreement with Consilium Technology, wine sector levy-payers will be able to access the GAIA web app without needing to pay any additional fees. Additional value-add features, including NDVI imagery, will be available on a user-pays basis.

Read more about the National Vineyard Scan

Find out more about GAIA

[1]  Other partners in the development of the model were the University of South Australia and Maxar Technologies.

[2] Funding was also provided by Commercialisation Australia and private investors.

This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.