SprayDay: mobile app for infrequent pesticide users
|Main authors:||Luke Farrow, Mark Browne, Erica Chisholm, Ida Hamill, Patrick Meier, Paul Armitage, Rachel Cassidy, Rikke Krogshave Laursen, Peter Schipper, Gerard Velthof and Donnacha Doody|
|Source document:||Farrow, L. et al. (2021) Development of the SprayDay mobile app - assisting best practice amongst infrequent pesticide users. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 5.5, 47 pp|
Pesticides are an important tool in modern agricultural practice, but it is recognised that their use can have significant negative ecological impacts and pose risks for human health if not removed from drinking water sources. Whilst there are technological solutions available to remove the majority of pesticides from drinking water, these approaches are expensive and may not always be effective. Consequently the use of professional pesticide products is strictly controlled, with usage limited to holders of, or those supervised by holders of, appropriate certification.
One challenge that is becoming increasingly apparent is that the infrequent use of pesticide products by many users’ means that adherence to best practice can be problematic. In addition the best source of information is not always clear, or easily accessible. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that pesticide usage is a practical process meaning that notes taken in training sessions are unlikely to be to hand when questions arise in the farmyard or the field. Modern tools such as mobile telephones and the internet provide a theoretical solution to this problem, but connectivity in rural areas, is often poor and many individual users still prefer a more traditional method for gaining information.
In this section of FAIRWAYiS we describe the development of SprayDay, a phone app that provides guidance to low-frequency users from both agricultural backgrounds and other business sectors (such as groundskeepers managing amenity spaces) on best practice in the application, disposal and environmental risks associated with the use of different pesticides for weed and pest control.
The work has been undertaken in three stages;
1. Market Research: Market research was carried out in two steps. A review of the currently available online resources showed that there were a small number of resources available that specialised in providing information on specific factors relating to pesticide usage, but none sought to act as a centralised hub for all issues. Further, provision tended to target more frequent users and those who have recently purchased new equipment. The second step was a series of structured interviews with 83 farmers who used professional pesticide products. The purpose of these interviews was to determine the specific mix of features that would increase the appeal of the app to potential users.
2. App Design and Development: Building on the outcomes of the market research, the app development team (which consisted of scientists and software developers) determined the most appropriate target audience for this app and then used a number of MoSCoW meetings (Must have, Should have, Could have, Won’t have) meetings to determine the content of the app
A series of wire-frame visualisations were then developed and presented to stakeholders representing agricultural interests, civil servants, academics and professional training bodies from across the island of Ireland, Great Britain and Europe in order to gain their feedback on content and presentation.
»Mobile app development
Following a final MoSCoW meeting, the app was developed to operate under the Android mobile phone software platform, which holds approximately 72% of mobile phone operating system market share. The working prototype was developed following industry standard software development lifecycle processes in line with internal best practices and procedures and using the Xamarin Open-source mobile app platform for .NET. An object oriented approach to coding was taken where the different elements of the system were designed, coded and tested individually and then brought together to form the completed system. System testing was carried out using Android OS emulation software before the first round of user-acceptance testing. The App was named “Sprayday”.
3. User review and testing: The app was presented to 64 stakeholders from across the island of Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe. Individuals represented a range of interest groups, ranging from civil servants to agricultural advisory service employees and from water utility employees to farmers. Several participants who had participated in the initial market research survey were included in this group. Overall feedback received was positive with more than 94% of respondents stating that they believed that the app was suitable for the target user groups. A number of respondents made it clear that they would prefer to see a more richly featured app that would provide users with the ability to generate the documentation associated with pesticide application, as well as storeroom records, as they felt this would improve the appeal of the app to the community. However, other respondents took exactly the opposite view, indicating that they felt that a simple app would be more appealing to the target audience.
»User review of prototype app