From the Editor: Creating a manure management app
By Jennifer Paige
While skimming through the latest industry news, a new tech development out of Alberta caught my eye. ManureTracker: a smartphone application for managing manure.
The app was created through a collaboration of provincial organizations and is currently being tested and used by farmers throughout the province. Intrigued, I caught up with Trevor Wallace, nutrient management specialist with Alberta Agriculture and member of the ManureTracker development team, to hear more about the app and how it came to fruition.
“We have been providing paper tools for farmers for years and a few comments that kept coming back were about the lack of convivence. Producers wanted to know exactly what information they needed to keep and how they can make the whole process of collecting that data easier. So, we began by working with a number of provincial commodity groups – beef, poultry, dairy and swine – to envision what this app could look like,” Wallace says.
He adds that it’s not just about having that information but having the ability to share it with others.
“There is a lot of information going back and forth between farmers, agronomists and custom applicators, whether it is regulatory required or from a best management point of view. So, anything that we can do to make that easier and create a reliable paper trail will help in the long run.”
The app allows users to identify when and where they want manure applied and then sends the GPS location, application rate and custom details directly to their applicator.
“[With the notes section], for example, producers are able to add that there is a neighbor in the northeast corner and to stay back 100 feet, or come into the field in a specific entrance and exit in a different spot. This can really help with neighbor relations.”
The app also connects to area weather stations, imports weather data, and uploads all the information to a cloud-based data system, where it can be analyzed or printed.
“The data we are collecting with our equipment, tractors, phones – it has really become the backbone of good management on a farming operation these days.”
When asked about advice for others who may be interested in creating an app, Wallace says to try not to get caught up in the idea of creating the ‘perfect’ app and keep it simple.
“It is very easy to get caught up and make things horribly complex. We asked producers what they wanted to include in the app and then created a minimum build that they could begin testing. From there, based on their experiences, we built it up, adding different aspects along the way.”
Looking forward, Wallace says this season the ManureTracker team will focus on usability and hope to gain more insight from farmers on how the app can be improved further for 2020.
ManureTracker is created through the partnership of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Alberta Milk, Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Pork, Intensive Livestock Working Group and the Natural Resources Conservation Board. Creation of the app was funded through Growing Forward 2. ManureTracker can be downloaded on Google Play for Android and the Apple App Store for iOS.