We are here FOR HOPS

We help preserve their quality and yield, we help hops cope with adverse weather and climate changes.

Without hops, beer would taste differently to what we now are used to. 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 enjoy Czech beer.

Climate changes, and especially droughts in recent years, are ever worse enemies of hops. That is why companies from all around the world have joined to help Czech hop growers start irrigating with the help of state-of-the-art technologies.

Czech hops = green gold

The Czech Republic is one of the world leaders in hops productions with a tradition of 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.

Climate changes and hops do not go together

Hops, more than other crops, are dependent on sufficient moisture. If they have enough water, they can grow up to seven meters in two months. And their yield is then rich and high-quality. If there is not enough water, the plant will languish.

In the past ten years, hops production has been very volatile, namely due to unstable weather and not enough water. An example is the year 2012, when Czech hop gardens produced only 4.3 thousand tons of harvest, while four years later over 7.7 thousand tons. Thus, a difference of 44%, while the area of hop gardens 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%.

„Growers have had to abandon some areas completely in recent years due to decreasing levels of ground water. This year´s or last year´s downpours have changed nothing. If it rains only somewhere, only sometimes and in the form of torrential rain, it mostly does more harm than good. Water does not have time to soak in, but flows away, and the plant suffers from drought again.“
Zdeněk Rosa
Chairman Chmelařství
cooperative Žatec

Hop growers in the Saaz region (Žatecko), which is the most important region in Czechia from the hop growing perspective, are especially vulnerable. The majority of their hop yards is part of a quite small microclimate, where the nearby Ore Mountains (Krušné hory) create a rain shadow. Because of this, the annual precipitation total in the area is only about 450 millimetres. Meanwhile, the nation-wide average is between 600 to 750 millimetres.

„The lack of moisture together with extreme temperatures also has another effect: on top of smaller yields, it leads to a decrease in so-called alpha bitter substances found in hop cones that, together with fine aromatic essential oils, give Czech hops their typical nicely bitter taste and fragrance. For which classical Czech lager is appreciated all over the world.“
Martina Brotánková
Regional category manager
Asahi Europe & International

There is no beer without hops

Brewing beer without hops is possible, but the beer does not taste good. It lacks the typical bitter taste and beautiful smell which have made Czech beer famous around the world.

They once tried to brew a hop-free beer in Plzeňský Prazdroj and let people taste it. Their reactions say it all. Hops are simply essential for beer.

The world for czech hops

That is why companies and experts from all around the world have come together to help preserve the quality and amount of grown hops. The project called “FOR HOPS” (PRO CHMEL) was created and is run by Plzeňský Prazdroj, its mother company Asahi, Microsoft and Agritecture. It also involves the Hop Research Institute (Chmelařský institut) and the Hop Growers Union (Svaz pěstitelů chmele).

„In order for hop growers to be able to irrigate as efficiently as possible, they need the most accurate data about the soil and climate conditions in a specific hop yard. Not on the level of a region or a district, but on an individual level for each hop yard, line after line, sometimes even plant after plant. And on top of that, they need to understand how and why plants respond to a specific situation.“
Ivan Tučník
Project lead
Plzeňský Prazdroj

Sensors will be placed on hop plants and in the soil – it is basically a hop ECG which will provide unique information about what Czech hops need. With the help of state-of-the-art technologies, Microsoft and Agritecture will develop a software which will be able to process and evaluate this type of data. They will use artificial intelligence, satellite images, as well as an analysis of historical data about the climate in microregions to do so.

Together, it will be a smart way to see when plants need moisture. 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.

Future in hop yards

Microsoft and Agritecture will develop a software for processing the collected data. In autumn 2022, the data will be processed and evaluated and the results will be published. Information will be available to all interested parties, hop growers, as well as the professional public.

„In autumn 2021, we will install sensors in the soil in selected Czech hop yards. We will add more directly on hop plants in spring 2022. We will be collecting data about the impact of the weather on the growth of hops throughout the entire lifecycle of the plants till the harvest in 2022.“
Henry Gordon-Smith
CEO, Agritecture

The goal is to deliver, based on the collected data and the developed mobile application, a tool for growers thanks to which they will be able to irrigate hop yards efficiently. And which can predict upcoming changes in the weather in microregions in the future, and warn growers in advance so that they can respond directly in hop yards in time.

„Together for preserving the quality and yield of Czech hops.“
Alex Mitro
Microsoft Česká republika a Slovensko

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