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App makes scouting made simple

Gil Gullickson 02/14/2013 @ 2:17pm Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

If you're tired of jamming crumpled and coffee-stained field-scouting notes into an easily forgotten binder, three Iowa State University (ISU) students have a better idea.

Michael Koenig, Stuart McCulloh, and Holden Nyhus have developed the ScoutPro mobile app for scouting corn and soybeans. The app can be used on Apple's iPhone and Android and Apple tablets, including Apple's second-generation iPad and iPad mini. The trio is marketing the app through ScoutPro, a business they started with assistance from ISU's Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative.

The app originated from Koenig's crop-scouting experiences with handwritten notes and paper files.

“Lots of times, these files would be put in binders with 500 pages, placed in a file cabinet, and never looked at again,” says Koenig, the firm's president and chief executive officer. “We wanted to make scouting information more transferable and valuable.”

The app aims to do this through components including these two features:

1. An identification process for field pests. ScoutPro has teamed with universities and other firms to compile crop, disease, weed, and insect photos on the app. Accompanying these photos is information about pest background, life cycles, and treatment thresholds.

“It's tough to tell anyone what 30% defoliation or silk clipping due to Japanese beetles looks like,” says McCulloh. “But we can use these pictures to show you what is happening.”

2. Automatic georeferencing of field conditions and pest levels. You can drop a georeferenced pin at your current location within a field. You can then make notes on crop condition, plant populations, pest pressure, yield estimates, and other factors at each pin for your future reference. You can generate reports and email them from the field.

The app also features a website function that enables you to:

» Synchronize scouting reports to a home computer.

» Archive reports for reference in future crop years.

» Provide interactive reports.

What's coming up

Last year's pilot season had 32 companies and 600 users utilizing the app, with more growth anticipated for 2013. Plans are to develop a wheat app and one to aid pesticide applicators in record keeping. ScoutPro has formed partnerships with firms like Greenbook Data Solutions to compile a product label database.

Costs vary, depending on services. There is a base activation fee, with additional fees dependent on the number of users registered, crop and user versions, and information management capacities.

Ease of use was on the minds of the trio when they designed the app. “We wanted to build something that is easy to learn and doesn't take eight hours of training,” says Koenig. “That's another reason we went with tablets. They're easy to take with you and easy to use.” 

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