The home screen of the Manure Calculator app.
Technology is driving many exciting possibilities in agriculture. The increase in use of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices is changing the way people consume information and interact with each other. One exciting opportunity is to utilize smartphone apps to make farm record keeping easier. With that in mind, two apps were created for livestock and poultry farms, "Manure Calculator" and "Manure Monitor".
Concerns about the digital divide and access to technology often mean that educators try to ensure educational materials are available in paper or other common formats. The creation of apps seems like a tool that would be available only to a select group. The reality is that mobile technologies are leapfrogging the traditional use of computers or laptops and many are gaining access to digital information through mobile devices of their own or those accessed through an adviser or educator. We believe that mobile apps have potential to actually increase the reach of credible, research-based information to audiences that may be underserved through traditional educational outreach.
One of the problems with record-keeping is that these are seen as an 'add-on' or additional chore beyond what a farmer would normally do. Incorporating records or planning processes into mobile devices can lower this inconvenience factor since users usually keep their mobile devices with them all the time and are comfortable using them.
Last, but not least, farmers are becoming more aware of the need to communicate their actions and stewardship ethics to audiences not familiar with agriculture. Social media, blogs, and crowdsourcing sites (like Reddit or Wikipedia) make it more possible than ever for farmers to interact with people that have questions or are skeptical about certain farming practices. Keeping records or developing plans on a mobile device makes it easier to share actions and activities and potentially counteract negative or misleading information that is circulated through the same media.
Home screen for the Manure Monitor app.
“Manure Calculator” has three sections. 1) calculate the amount of manure spread (calibrate your spreader) 2) calculate the amount of nutrients applied by using either your own manure test or using book values and 3) calculate the economic value of that manure. The app keeps a history of past entries and allows the user to email a single entry or an entire history to themselves for record keeping purposes. The value section was based on an existing spreadsheet from the University of Nebraska. The book values section was based on the ASABE 384.2 Manure Production and Characteristics standard.
The apps can be accessed by searching for "Manure Calculator" or "Manure Monitor" in your app store or using the links below:
“Manure Monitor” is a utility that includes a farm emergency plan (for manure spills). The plan is updated by one person and everyone else can “sync” with that plan from their own devices. Other aspects of the app do not sync, but include carcass disposal, rainfall records, liquid manure storage levels, and others.
We believe that two of the concerns for app development are:
1) The cost to develop apps. When looking at such a specific topic as manure management or environmental records, the cost is usually the first question asked by other educators or agency staff and it can be substantial. Our plan is to make this app code available to others that would like to customize or build on the app for their clientele (specific species or specific state). This will hopefully lower the cost of development for others AND lead to app versions that are more useful to farmers. It is also important to recognize that creating both of these apps was actually less expensive than funds needed to develop some of the traditional educational modules in this same project.
2) Integration into software. We believe apps can be even more useful if they provide a simple way to enter data into software being used for comprehensive planning or record keeping procedures. Software companies interested in integrating these apps into data entry will be welcomed.
Jill Heemstra, University of Nebraska firstname.lastname@example.org
This program originated thanks to funding from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) under award #2009-49400-05871. This project is a joint effort between University of Nebraska, Montana State University, Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center and the National Young Farmers Educational Association (NYFEA).
App developer: Jeff Abele from Move Creative http://movecreative.com
We would like to thank the following people for their feedback and reviews of the apps:
Leslie Johnson, Charles Shapiro, William Kranz, Larry Howard, and Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska; Mark Risse and Melony Wilson, University of Georgia; Laura Pepple, University of Illinois; Amanda Douridas, Ohio State University; Thomas Bass, Montana; Saqib Mukhtar, Texas AgriLife Extension; Rhonda Miller, Utah State University; and many others.
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