Ag app provides on-the-go field information

Canadian farmers may not have come as far as they believe they have when it comes to digitalizing field information.

Agronomists, crop consultants and their farmer clients need to do a better and faster job of communicating with each other, says Peter Gredig, an agronomist in southern Ontario.

Gredig recently launched a new IPad agricultural app for field scouting. His ScoutDoc app is designed to simplify the process of scouting, documenting field information and communicating that information quickly between farmers and agronomists.

“We talked to a lot of agronomists and field scouting professionals and were surprised that the majority were still using clipboards and pens,” says Gredig.

Many would photocopy the information or fax it to their client or keyboard it into electronic form later, he added. Their obsolete systems were neither quick or efficient.

“We wanted to build something electronic to replace the clipboard and to take full advantage of everything a mobile tablet device can do.”

Gredig’s company, AgNition, calls the concept mobile management because it lets the scout and client manage a field from wherever they happen to be with their IPads.

He said it was a conscious decision to make ScoutDoc available for the smaller IPad instead of the larger laptop screen.

“The laptop thing has been kind of a bust,” he said.

“It’s really not field friendly and it has no GPS capabilities like a tablet. And the batteries don’t last as long as in a tablet. You can easily carry an IPad with you in the field while scouting. When you see something significant, you pull up ScoutDoc and simply draw or make your notes right on the screen with your finger or a stylus.

“Enter your notes or drawing or report and it’s saved. If you’re a producer, you can send the report to your agronomist immediately. If you’re the agronomist, you can send it to your client immediately. There’s no time wasted, as long as you have 3G.”

Gredig said the ScoutDoc mobile management plan makes it possible to identify the exact location of an aphid, blight, grasshopper or specific weed outbreak and in many situations deal with it the same day.

“Another aspect that saves time and money is when you have a custom applicator on hold waiting for instructions,” he said.

“You can be standing in the field and e-mail him the map complete with all the information he needs to move out right away.”

Gredig said it also works the other way around. Custom applicators can use ScoutDoc to document what they do in each field.

“They roll into the field, bring up the map, quickly enter the necessary information and when they roll out, the whole operation is documented on their IPad. They can e-mail the results back to the dealer and the client as soon as they’re done spraying.”

Gredig said the system was de-signed to be as flexible as possible and to take full advantage of existing technology such as Google Earth and Google Map.

“You can import an image file for each of your fields. While you’re standing in the field, you can make notes on the image or draw where you need better drainage or whatever it is you need to do.”

All field data is available on the left side of the screen. Photos of specific spots in the field can also be added to the files.

The first version of ScoutDoc was only for the original IPad, which did not include a camera option. The latest version has full GPS plus photographic imaging capabilities.

“If you see an area where you think there may be a nutrient deficiency, you can photograph those plants, mark the spot on your IPad GPS and then come back for soil tests later or take samples for tissue analysis.”

Gredig urged producers to buy the latest 3G IPad technology. He said WIFI just isn’t good enough.

“We used to think that the challenge would be trying to convince producers to buy into this kind of technology,” said Gredig.

“But that’s backwards. What we hear from producers is that they’re frustrated by the slow development of apps and the slow uptake by their agribusiness partners when it comes to accepting mobile management.”

The basic ScoutDoc sells for $50. The latest version with full GPS and image capture sells for $89. The Android version will be available later this summer.

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