Grower Spotlight: Chris Pierce of Constellation Brands
IntelliCulture's vision is to empower farms to grow their operations into sustainable and profitable businesses. Having partnered with several hundred growers, we are happy to observe a positive response from adoption of technology, especially as of late. We aim to intensify awareness in the industry and would also like to illuminate and share the experiences of some of those we have had the pleasure of working closely with. Many growers share the goals of sustainability and profitability, and strive to realize those visions through the adoption of technology. One such grower is the focus of this feature.
This month, we feature Chris Pierce, an Associate Vineyard Manager with Constellation Brands in their Napa growing region.
Working his way up the coast
Chris grew up in Long Beach, CA and got his start in the industry through his studies at Cal Poly. With his original ambitions driving him to major in Sports Medicine, he gravitated
towards the science behind the studies, and honed his passion for the outdoors. These affinities led him to shift into Viticulture, and during his pursuit, he secured an internship with J. Lohr Vineyards on the vineyard management team. Upon graduation in 2019, Chris joined the Constellation Brands team as a Viticulture Technician and has since moved to Napa as an Associate
Vineyard Manager. Along his journey up the California coast, from Long Beach to Napa, Chris fell more and more in love with the industry, especially the data-driven decisions and working outdoors. Chris has since then been a great contributor to the vineyard's successful running and operations.
Driven by creative problem solving
Interested to know more about Chris’s vision, we drilled in and asked him his “Why”. Our takeaway was that every vineyard is unique, and yours will be your creation. Chris shared that seeing everything and the challenge of working in different areas was what kept him motivated. This includes keeping everyone on the same page while avoiding communication breakdowns. As a good manager, Chris is passionate about keeping people safe and engaging in creative problem-solving in his workplace. Every day is different for Chris, and he thrives in that environment. A successful workplace safety culture lies in the relationship between the manager, the supervisors, and the bond among the entire crew and it was clear the passion that Chris held for creating this culture on his team. He loves dealing with something new each day.
A day in the life
With such a unique perspective having worked in a variety of roles and industries, Chris also shared a bit more color on his day to day.
“What is it like helping run the operation at a global leading wine and spirits company such as Constellation Brands?”
Well, as it turns out, every day is pretty different. Typically, though, Chris’s day starts with checking in with his foremen, where he gets an understanding of how tasks are going and sets the plan for the day. He takes a few moments to ensure everything is planned well and nothing has been missed. Back in the office, he then drills into his emails and confirms any late-night meetings or jobs that were performed. After that, he sets his plan for himself for the day and honors his passion of working outdoors by getting in a bit of scouting. This is followed by checking in with his manager, Irineo, where they then together ensure the team have the tools they need for success, whether that be for spraying or harvest. Chris relies on a variety of tools to keep himself and his team organized.
“Technology has become a huge part of this industry. Its where I get the most reliable information… looking at IntelliCulture for example, I can confirm what we actually completed overnight, and what we need to adjust for the day at hand”.
With technology, Chris and his team can determine the answers to questions such as, did the team miss any rows in a spray event, did they finish harvesting that block overnight, or is there anything else may need to be done.
From shovels to iPads
Chris mentioned that, during the start of his career in the industry, there was a ton of pen and paper work. He remembers his earlier days at J. Lohr, with a shovel and a clipboard for tasks such as scouting and his eye lit up while sharing with us that “technology has since become reliable for the company to use and has greatly enhanced our efficiency”. Chris now uses a variety of tools such as soil probes, fleet management software and work order systems to obtain reliable data quickly, share reports, and take action on the ranch – all through a few clicks of a button on an iPad.
Engaging the organization – Winemakers Delight
One of the most unique perspectives we heard from Chris was his ability to engage so many individuals across his team through technology. Chris shared with us how he is now able to send his IntelliCulture reports to his Winemaker to keep them informed about special tasks such as Mechanical Leafing. He highlighted how the “maps are a new form of visual communication that is really helpful to visualize what type of leafing has been done for our team to gauge the different exposure of the grapes”. This example perfectly highlights the power of technology to enhance communication on the farm between Chris and his team to make sure his Winemaker is able to directly influence the growing quality of the grapes and keep Constellation Brands remain competitive as an industry leader.
A vision for the future
At the end of the day, the success of Constellation can truly be traced back to each hard-working individual across the organization. Chris shares such a strong passion for his role and the company, and we at IntelliCulture consider ourselves lucky to work so closely with Chris and his team. We left encouraged about the industry hearing Chris’s vision for the future; where he strives to work towards more sustainability and seamless operations in the ranch. He is working towards improving efficiencies to minimize herbicide and chemical use in production and has a personal passion for organic practices. Chris is excited to see these new practices being trialed and developed around sustainability, and is confident it will change the industry forever.