Contributed by Payton Paschoal | Junior | Agricultural Communication
Long-term crops, specifically orchards, are generally maintained on a tree-by-tree basis so it's beneficial for farmers to use technology that aids them in caring for trees individually.
The farmer’s technology
While it is often said that farmers have been behind other sectors on the technology surge, even my grandpa has retired his Verizon flip-phone and upgraded to an iPhone. The technology divide is due to a fear of change and the idea that one’s current methods are acceptable, or in farmer’s terms “it’ll do”. However, farmers are coming around to the idea of a computer in their pocket, and some have even figured out that they can use that to their advantage. This is how we do it
My family has been active in the agriculture industry for over one hundred years, but my father is relatively new to farming. In 2015, we planted 140 acres of walnuts surrounding our property. To give you some context, 140 acres is around 10,000 trees, so when driving through the orchard, it is difficult to give individual trees the attention they need. Pure GPS The app, Pure GPS is a simple solution to this problem that makes a huge difference. This app was designed as a straightforward GPS app that would lead users to specific locations using latitude and longitude. Locations can be entered, or current locations can be marked to return to later. As you mark locations, an electronic record is created. Keeping a database allows for farmers to return to specific trees year after year.
This app is perfect for orchard managers because it allows them to mark a particular location so they can return to it later. For example, my dad will be driving through the orchard on the quad to prune trees and notice that there is a pipe break in the middle of the field. Normally he would try to take notice of where he is, drive back to the shop to get supplies, then spend 20 minutes trying to find where the break was located. That is if he even has the time and daylight to fix it. Now, with Pure GPS, all he has to do is open the app, click ‘mark current location’ and it will drop a very accurate pin which he can easily navigate to later or even another day. My dad uses this to mark irrigation malfunctions, diseased trees, rows he left off on, trees he needs to regraft, and many more instances. When he wants to return to a location, he clicks on the named pinpoint and is given directions from the app. Your current location is always visible and updates in real-time as you move through the orchard. When you are near your destination, you can see your current location on top of the pinpoint, so if you go too far past the pipe leak or crown Gaul on the tree, you will be able to see that on the app. There is certainly room for improvement within the app, or even an app mimicking Pure GPS for agriculture specifically. To take a step even further, an advanced app could be developed that not only allows GPS technology to mark locations, but one that connects to GPS systems preestablished in farming equipment. Connecting these individual elements of technology would allow farmers to mark what they see from the seat of the tractor and allow the tractor to drive back to the location automatically. Alternatives
Of course, farmers could continue driving back through the orchard, attempting to relocate maintenance issues, but we have to remember that the purpose of technology is convivence and efficiency. Using some sort of numbering organization would greatly benefit farmers financially and time-wise because we all know, time is money. My mom was tasked with coming up with a numbering system for the trees. She wanted something big enough to see that would not be in the way of tree growth or equipment. She started by painting directly on the trees. Walnuts are painted white to prevent disease and even keep them from getting sunburnt, so the black paint really stood out on the white trees. This numbering method was ultimately discarded because the trees continue to grow and the numbers could easily be worn off. Last year we created numbered stakes for the rows to make finding specific trees easier. In order to be frugal with this added convenience, we used old irrigation stakes and purchased easy-to-read numbers that we glued to the stakes ourselves. The goal was to make the numbers easily seen from the road, however, the numbers ended up being too small unless you were right next to the rows. Even though they were small, numbering the rows did help with identification. That is, for the first few months. After just one year, almost half of the stakes have been swept away during harvest or lost some other way.
The advantage of the app my family uses, Pure GPS is that it can be used across all crops. Because it was not specifically designed for agricultural purposes, it can be easily applied to any shape or size of the field. There are a number of GPS apps but what sets this apart is the pinpoint accuracy on a satellite view of the orchard. Another app that is similar to this is Hectre-Orchard Manager. While I have not used this app, it encompasses a number of management practices. In addition to GPS tracking, it keeps track of time cards, disease control, reporting tools, and so many more features. For our orchard system, we were not looking for an all-encompassing app. The simplicity of the Pure GPS app is what works for our farm, and it might be the right fit for yours! Above all, Pure GPS is FREE! Click here to view the app.