Ripening Innovation


Ripening Innovation

PHOTOGRAPHY pete thornton
>> Amanda Mader pictured with her invention 'Ripen Tech', which provides real-time fruit weight monitoring.

Amanda Mader’s journey through viticulture exemplifies resilience, determination, bold risk-taking and a deep love for the land.

Affectionately known as Mandy, she shines as a woman in innovation as she pioneers a new era in vineyard management.

Reflecting on her transformative path, Mandy reminisces about the pivotal moments that propelled her to the forefront of vineyard management.

“I graduated with a degree in Arts and Economics before turning 21, and soon realised there weren’t many jobs out there,” she reflects.

“But fate led me to Penfolds, where I began as a grape intake scheduling officer and later moved on to the lab and vineyards, where I discovered a passion for the science of winemaking.”

Later, Mandy joined her husband, Mark Mader, a sixth-generation winegrower, in managing their family vineyard, now known as Gumpara Wines. Here, her insatiable curiosity to learn the secrets of the vines grew, and she was captivated by the intricate dance between soil, climate, and grapevines.

Mandy was determined to pursue a Bachelor of Applied Science in Viticulture. She dropped her first degree and added postgraduate studies in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and Remote Sensing. Although balancing motherhood with university presented its own challenges, Mandy remarkably managed to complete a six-year degree in just four years.

“Juggling motherhood and studies was interesting,” Mandy admits.

“Especially trying to navigate how to take exams that clash with baby birth due dates.”

“I remember during my exams, my newly born daughter needed regular feeding, so I had to sneak out halfway through the exam, feed her, and return to finish,” she laughs.

While juggling her busy life, Mandy’s passion for viticulture only intensified. She often took her daughters, Opal and Abi, to the vineyard, whether sleeping in the capsule or on their little trikes, while wielding her pruning shears.

Transitioning seamlessly into a role as a Technical Viticulturist at Yalumba Wines, Mandy was tasked with exploring innovative approaches to improve yield estimation accuracy.

Her ground-breaking trial at Yalumba Vineyards, which revealed the crucial link between canopy weight and irrigation by measuring tension on the trellis wire, marked a significant turning point in vineyard management practices.

Mandy’s expertise continued to grow as she focused on data collection for differing yield estimation methods and trial design in fungal disease management. She also mastered the art of assessing bud fruitfulness by dissection to set pruning levels, balancing the quality of wine grapes with yield.

While searching for her next career step, a simple Facebook post offering technical support in viticulture unexpectedly soared, leading to her founding her own business, The Vine Scout.

“Back then, we manually counted bunches. It’s a labour-intensive process involving counting, destructively removing, weighing, and plugging data into spreadsheets, often resulting in inaccuracies due to unpredictable factors like weather events,” she explains.

‘We were stuck in a cycle of manual labour and inaccurate predictions. All while struggling to get workers. The industry was suffering, and I knew there had to be a better way.”


“There are still challenges to overcome, and as long as there are vineyards to tend and grapes to harvest, I’ll continue pushing the boundaries of possibility”

- Amanda Mader

Mandy embarked on a quest to develop real-time fruit weight measurement technology—a vision that would ultimately become Ripen Tech.

Ripen Tech, which won Mandy the Women in Innovation SA 2021 Award for Engineering, is a groundbreaking technology that empowers growers to make informed management decisions with precise data.

Mandy’s influence extends beyond the vineyards, establishing her as a luminary figure in the Barossa Valley community. Actively engaged in the Barossa Viticulture Technical Group and generously sharing her time and expertise, she drives change.

Having been named the Barossa Valley Viticulturist of the Year in 2022, Mandy humbly reflects on the unexpected honour.

“It was a massive honour and a highlight of my career,” she recalls.

For Mandy, this recognition is not just a personal achievement; it’s a symbol of the increasing presence and impact of women in viticulture. She’s determined to rewrite the narrative of the underrepresentation of women in a male-dominated industry and pave the way for more women to thrive.

“We still need more,” she asserts passionately. “And I’m working on it.”

Passionate about nurturing the next generation of viticulturists, Mandy actively shares her expertise and offers work experience.

“Viticulture offers endless variety. You can be creative, and it requires problem-solving skills. It’s a delicate blend of art and science,” she says.

Mandy acknowledges the guidance and support of mentors and role models, including fellow pioneer and innovator Prue Henschke, the late Chris Rogers, and researchers Dr Mike McCarthy and Bruce Henderson.

Looking towards the future, Mandy envisions a bright and sustainable future for the industry, where women continue to play a pivotal role.

“My journey is far from over, and I still need to chip at it.”

“There are still challenges to overcome, and as long as there are vineyards to tend and grapes to harvest, I’ll continue pushing the boundaries of possibility.”

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