The FOR HOPS project, initiated by Plzeňský Prazdroj and the goal of which is to help farmers maintain the quality and amount of domestic hops, has been launched this week on six farms in the Saaz region. Hops in Czechia have been negatively impacted by climate change in recent years. The project will examine the impact of weather on hop growing for the entire following year, and will provide hop growers with an application which will contribute to more efficient irrigation of hop yards, as well as to saving water, which there is a lack of.
Experts from Agritecture together with farmers have installed sensitive weather stations and soil sensors on a total of 6 hop yards in the past few days. These will monitor and record important data on the temperature and humidity of soil down to a depth of 120 centimetres and in ten-minute intervals till the next harvest of hops in September 2022. The weather stations will also measure wind speed and direction, precipitation, ambient temperature and humidity, sunshine, as well as humidity on the surface of leaves of hop plants. Farmers will receive the first measured information as soon as next week. In spring, a special “hop ECG” in the form of more sensors located directly on plants will be added to the weather stations.
“All the data from the soil and plants will provide us unique information on when hops need water and how they respond to the surrounding microclimate. On top of that, Microsoft will add data from a planetary computer. This includes a huge amount of detailed information and satellite images of our planet, including historical data. We will upload all of this to a mobile application which will be able to evaluate the data thanks to artificial intelligence, and will advise hop growers when and where they should irrigate, down to the level of individual parts of hop yards. This should lead not only to water savings, but especially to preserving the quality and volume of hops,” says Ivan Tučník, Project Leader from Plzeňský Prazdroj.
In its first wave, the project FOR HOPS involves six growers from the Saaz (Žatecko) region. These were chosen in cooperation with the Hop Research Institute (Chmelařský institut) and the Hop Growers Union (Svaz pěstitelů chmele) in such a way as to cover as broad a range of soil and climatic conditions in which hops are grown in the Saaz region as possible. The technological solutions which will be created after the following harvest will be used by other hop growers, not only those in the Saaz region. About 30 experts from 3 continents are already working on the project, from Singapore to San Francisco, Belgrade to Quebec.
Notes for editors
- Summary of the project FOR HOPS
Czech hops give beer its unique bitter taste and exceptional smell. Together with water and barley, hops are an essential ingredient which we need to take care of so that millions of people in Czechia and around the world can always enjoy Czech beer.
Similar to other crops, hops are influenced by climate change and irregular rainfall. That is why the project FOR HOPS was created. The biggest Czech brewery, Plzeňský Prazdroj, and its mother company, Asahi, have joined up with the software giant Microsoft and the innovative technological company Agritecture to help hop growers irrigate more efficiently, and this way, contribute to preserving the quality and quantity of Czech hops.
For this, they need the most accurate data about the soil and climatic conditions in a specific hop yard. Hop growers also need to understand how and why plants respond to a specific situation. Sensors will be installed in the soil, in hop yards and on hop plants, and will gather data on precipitation, humidity and the microclimate in the soil throughout one lifecycle of plants. It´s basically a hop ECG which will provide unique information about what Czech hops need during the given season of the year and in the given weather. Microsoft and Agritecture will develop software which will be able to process and evaluate this type of data. The mobile application will then show growers when plants need water. This way, hop growers will be able to handle water, of which there is often a short supply, more efficiently and ensure sustainable growth of the precious ingredient in the future.
- The Czech Republic is one of the world leaders in hops growing with a tradition going back more than a thousand years. Almost 6,000 tonnes of hops are grown on 5,000 hectares every year here. 80 % of this volume is represented by the most famous variety of hops – Saaz semi-early red bine hops (Žatecký poloraný červeňák) – with their light aroma and unmistakable taste, typical, for instance, for pilsner lager. The production of Czech hops has been very volatile in the past ten years, namely due to unstable weather and irregular rainfall. A good example is 2012, when Czech hop yards produced only 4.3 thousand tonnes of hops, while four years later, they produced over 7.7 thousand tonnes. That is a difference of 44 % in yield, while the area of hop yards changed by only 8.5%. The differences have not been so big in recent years, but they are still visible. Year-on-year fluctuations have exceeded one thousand tonnes, that is, about 20 %.
- Plzeňský Prazdroj is a domestic leader in the area of sustainable business. Last year in October, it introduced its brand new sustainability strategy. There, it committed to achieving carbon neutrality in production by 2030, to using only renewable energy sources and to the circularity of its packaging. At the same time, the company intends to strengthen its leading position in water management. It also puts emphasis on the impact its business has on employees and all of society. In 2020, the company received the most prominent award – Trendsetter – in the TOP Responsible Company by Business for Society chart for setting trends in the area of sustainability and for bringing inspiring new impulses for business responsibility in Czechia over the long term. With exports to more than 50 countries around the world, Plzeňský Prazdroj is a leader among beer producers in the region and the largest exporter of Czech beer.
- Asahi Europe & International (AEI) is part of Asahi Group Holdings, a global beverage and food processing company listed on the Tokyo stock exchange in Japan. It was established thanks to acquisitions which allowed Asahi Group holdings, a traditional Japanese producer of beer, whisky and a broad range of food products, to set up and strengthen its business in Europe and all around the world. The company employs more than 10,000 people, runs 19 plants in 8 European countries, and with the exception of Japan and Oceania, the company is in charge of worldwide exports (90 markets). Its most famous brands include Asahi Super Dry, Pilsner Urquell, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Grolsch and Kozel. AEI has been striving for a sustainable way of business in the long term, and is a member of several international coalitions in this field. The company introduced its latest commitments within the programme Legacy 2030 last year.
- Microsoft is a leading producer of technologies for the world in which mobility and cloud come first. Our mission is to enable every person and every organization to do more. Microsoft Corporation was established more than 40 years ago – in April 1975. Its Czech branch was launched in 1992. In June 2016, the Czech branch merged with the Slovak branch and Microsoft Czech Republic and Slovakia came into existence. Our vision is to inspire customers, individuals and organizations in Czechia and Slovakia to be able to change the world thanks to digital technologies. We believe that responsibility starts with creating opportunities for everyone. The goal of Microsoft’s corporate social responsibility is to provide access to technologies and knowledge to those people and organizations which need them most, and whose opportunities to use modern technologies are often limited. We help children and young people, especially those who are disadvantaged, non-profit organizations, educational institutions and other partners by sharing our technologies, resources, time and skills with them.
- Agritecture was founded by Henry Gordon-Smith in 2014 (originally “Blue Planet Consulting”) to help entrepreneurs navigate the crucial planning stage for their urban farming businesses and avoid costly mistakes. Since then, Agritecture has grown into the world´s leading advisory firm on urban and controlled environment agriculture, working with clients of all types – from entrepreneurs to investors and technology providers – in more than 25 countries. Agritecture is comprised of a global team of interdisciplinary consultants that rely on an ever-expanding dataset and a proven methodology, having completed more than 150 projects to date.
- Czech hop growing has more than a thousand-year-long tradition and a world-wide reputation. Top quality hops are grown on roughly 5,000 hectares in three renowned hop growing areas. In the long term, Czechia has also been one of the biggest exporters of hops. Over 80% of its production is represented by the most famous variety of hops – Saaz semi-early red bine hops (Žatecký poloraný červeňák) – with their light aroma and unmistakable taste, typical, for instance, for pilsner lager. Sustainable hop growing represents a key priority for Czech farmers. The number of domestic hop yards dropped significantly in the 1990s, therefore, hop growers invest in restoring them every year. They have been trying to preserve water in the country for a long time, and have been building irrigations systems on hop yards. Significant investments are directed to the procurement of new technologies to sustain the high quality of hops, and to increase productivity when growing and harvesting hops.