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Wine loves tech: How IoT is helping vineyard owners in Bulgaria

Image credit: ©Bevine
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On the day when the world celebrates love and romance, here in the Balkans we celebrate one slightly different type of love – that towards the wine. And what better way to commemorate the regional tradition of Trifon Zarezan than meeting you with a startup that helps passionate winemakers to impress with the quality of their brand and perfectionist vine-growers to produce the finest grape harvests. Bevine brings technology into the traditional winemaking and develops software for analysis and monitoring of vineyards by combining IoT sensors and AI smart assistance. 

Every year, vineyards with an area of about 300 decares lose on average $75K on spraying expenses, around $18K on scouting expenses, and over 20% of the yield due to late detection of diseases, and Bevine addresses each one of these three pain points with one product. Started by a team of young software engineers with a passion and interest in winemaking, Bevine was recognized as the Best Digital Innovation Startup in the 2019 JA Europe Challenge in Oslo. Its software offers field analysis of vineyards with historical data, a smart assistance solution that helps vine-growers to make data-driven decisions about the need and the right time to spray and water their vines. Bevine also provides real-time information about the condition of the crops by analyzing data from IoT devices that monitor temperature, humidity, and moisture, and can be integrated with smart watering hose systems and crop spraying drones. The founder of Bevine, Blagoi Anastasov, went into details to explain where, how and why IoT, AI, and wine collide and what is the future of the young startup.

The Recursive: How was the idea of Bevine born? How did you decide to start developing solutions for the winemaking businesses?

Blagoi Anastasov: My family has a vineyard and the love for wine has turned into a hobby for me. I like this beverage and I like being part of the process of seeing how from a single grapevine, your glass gets filled with wine. My profession, however, is different – I am a software engineer, not an agronomist. After finishing our Bachelor’s degree, my friends and I enrolled for a Master’s in Tech Entrepreneurship and IT Innovations and that is when the idea of Bevine was born. As we, in general, are a team guided by the goal to solve problems we wanted to use our software building knowledge in different industries where there was a need for a solution. 

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Being raised in a family that loves wine and enjoys producing it, I was acquainted with the problems that amateur winemakers face. However, it is different to make wine for a hobby and business. We are aware that in order to make a product that connects two worlds we need people from these two words in our team – the software and the agronomy world.

Being such a young startup, what traction have you able to achieve up to this point of your development?

 We are currently working with wineries that are early-adopteрs and that help us validate our solutions. There are a couple of such wineries in Bulgaria – The Tipchenitza Winery in the Vratsa region where we installed our first IoT station in 2020 and the Terra Tangra Winery in the Sakar Mountain. In terms of profit, we do not sell our solution yet and actually consider the wineries that we are working with as partners instead of clients. 

How does your solution solve the problems of winery and vineyards owners?

By developing this solution our goal is to allow vine-growers and winemakers to start making better-informed decisions. Bevine does that by analyzing information retrieved from IoT devices installed in the vineyards. The analysis includes meteorological data as well as historic data about the growth of the vines, qualitative and quantitative characteristics of previous productions. Our process-management software allows vine-growers to start making use of the data that is already collected by IoT sensors. 

What does the future hold for Bevine? What are your short-term and long-term goals?

We are trying to set over-optimistic expectations. Right now we are focusing on testing the solution with our partners and after validation is complete, our goal is to have a finished product with process modeling and process managing functionalities. As a team, we believe that the most important thing is to first have a functional product that fulfills its purpose to help businesses in the winemaking industry. That is why we are not currently looking for investment but rather are focusing our resources on validating our solution and attracting more clients from Bulgaria and the region. 

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Can you talk business over wine? And what is your favorite sort of wine?

This is one of my favorite things. Even though I often hear the famous saying “Everyone is wise before the first glass of wine”, drinking a glass of wine helps me to stop being strictly rational and unleashes my creative-thinking. Moreover, every time that we go to visit our partners at their wineries, they welcome us with a glass of wine so drinking wine while discussing business has become an inseparable part of our activities. 

In terms of my favorite wine, it depends on the season, but usually, I like rosé of Rubin. I can say that Sirah and Rubin are my favorite red wine sorts, while Muscat and especially Muscat from the Vratsa region is my favorite sort of white wine. 

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Elena is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive, an online media dedicated to the emerging tech and startup ecosystems in Southeast Europe. She is keen on sharing the innovation stories that shape the regional ecosystem and has a great interest in fintech, IoT, and biotech startups. Elena is currently finishing her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Political Science at the American University in Bulgaria.