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Industry Project 2023/2024: Innovating Wine Quality Monitoring with ATTRACT Technologies

The IDBM Industry Project Course involves seven exciting months of multidisciplinary collaboration, exploration, and innovation, addressing a real-life challenge provided by industry partners. This year, we want to take you along the journey by meeting our 13 vastly different Industry Project teams at different points in their process – from research to prototyping and final concept development!

As the project in our series, we sat down with Jenni and Joao from Team SUGAR (SUGAR is a global network for design innovation connecting students from across the world with corporate partners), who are working on leveraging ATTRACT technologies for quality monitoring in the wine production process.

This is part of ATTRACT that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (GA 101004462). 

The team, consisting of IDBM students Jenni (BIZ), João (TECH), Hui (BIZ), and Risto (ARTS), as well as three business students from Linköping University, received their brief last October and has been immersing themselves in the topic of wine production since – including a trip to wineries in Austria.

Stage of the IDBM Industry Project course at the time of the interview

You are currently in the exploration phase of your project. Can you share insights into the progress and activities you've undertaken so far?

Jenni: We went to Vienna to visit some wineries there and a winemaking school. It was a high school with a curriculum for wine makers’ children to teach them winemaking in the optimal ways and prepare them for taking over their family business someday. During our visit, we learned so much about winemaking. It was like a crash course into wine.

João: We arrived roughly after harvest, so every grape was already pretty much gathered. But we had really long conversations about every single step of the winemaking process, from stemming and treating the plants to watering in the summer. And we talked about harvest fermentation, bottling, and even maturing aging wines. By now, I think we all know much more about wine and can generally visualize and describe how it is produced. By that, I mean all types of wines, mostly whites, but also reds, bubbly, and sparkling. Even dessert wine.

Jenni: It was super interesting since most of us came into the project with very little knowledge about wine. The trip was a good way to explore the context because we were able to build an understanding of winemakers through conversations, especially as winemaking is such a passion project for a lot of people. We could identify some pain points that we are now gradually focusing on and doing some prototyping with.

João: To give some examples of pain points, winemaking follows a cyclical calendar, so they have very intense work weeks during harvest. Fermentation also demands daily monitoring, tasting, and smelling. But then you also have external factors that are becoming more apparent, like, climate change. It is changing how these winemakers must take care of their gardens. And then there are trends of making things more organic. There is a lot to consider.

Jenni: And now, we are in this mission called Dark Horse, which might not say anything to anyone outside of our course. The Dark Horse is the phase in which you do the fun, paradigm-shifting, initial prototyping, and questioning of the whole problem space. It is challenging since not everyone is used to going so far outside of the box. But I'm sure that once we finish the mission, we can see the value in something that might seem too bold at first sight.

Teamwork and visiting wineries during the research trip to Austria

How has it been to work in a team located in two countries?

Jenni: A remote environment can be challenging when you're trying to build a physical product, but overall, it's been very nice to see that we're quite a multicultural team! Even though we're based in Finland and Sweden, there's a lot more mix of cultures where people are originally from. It adds a lot of value.

Also, we've been working quite a lot as a united team, meeting up weekly and then meeting in person on the trip, which was great for building team morale and getting to know each other outside of the work context. We hope to meet again soon in Sweden and at Aalto.

What significant lessons have you gained up until this point?

Jenni: For me, the biggest learning has probably been related to working with people, especially because I haven't worked so collaboratively in a remote setting before. I think it will be valuable in the future as I strongly believe that it is becoming more common for people to be in different parts of the world while being in the same team.

Also, I was surprised, because I thought that working in a real-life context, it would be easier to find a solution than in fictional projects. But it's actually much more challenging to find a solution and the problem can seem unclear.

João: My biggest learnings have also been in teamwork.

Otherwise, we just learned a lot about wine. In terms of, you know, how people learn, there's that magical curve: first, you are ignorant about a phenomenon, then, you get more information on it, and just the more you learn, the less you realize you know. I think I'm on the top of that curve now because I feel like I can discuss almost all areas within the winemaking industry and the winemaking process. I cannot do it myself, but I can talk about it quite well. It feels like a holistic understanding of what it entails.

Snippets from the team's research trip to different wineries

What are you looking forward to in your upcoming process?

Jenni: I hope to gain more hands-on experience with prototyping because all of the product development projects that I have worked on so far have been rather conceptual than tangible. Otherwise, I'm just looking forward to seeing what we come up with in the end, of course.

João: To add to that, I’m looking forward to the next trip(s). Also, when this was first briefed, we were talking about wine but were also considering other contexts, such as breweries. It would be exciting to further explore those along with our project.

About the IDBM team: 

Jenni (BIZ, background in management and strategy) LinkedIn

Hui (BIZ, background in e-commerce) LinkedIn

Risto (ARTS, background in fashion design) LinkedIn

João (TECH, background in information networks) LinkedIn

Curious to learn more about our Industry Projects this year? Keep an eye on our blog and social media to get to know the other teams!

Author: Nicole Hußmann


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