|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|
|1. Identification of target audience and features|
|2. Development of app interface|
|3. Process of coding the app|
1. Identification of target audience and features
The app development team, which included both scientists and software developers, first reviewed the data that was gathered in the market research stage in order to define the target audience for the app. Although interviewees were not specifically asked to comment on the suitability of the app to other business sectors, such as the amenity sector, a number of individuals commented that farmers were not the only users of professional pesticide products. As such the target audience were defined as:-
- Users who apply pesticides infrequently (1-2 times a year)
- Users who would like assistance with calibration and dilution calculations
- Users who want access to easy-to-use, straightforward decision support tools
In a Northern Irish context, the main target audience were small, lower intensity livestock farmers who often own older pesticide application machinery. Non-agricultural users would be predominantly drawn from the amenity sector, such as groundskeepers for sports pitches and golf courses, as well as environmental bodies and local councils who are responsible for the management of green spaces.
The development team then used the MoSCoW method (Must have, Should have, Could have or Won’t have) to determine which features were to be included in the early prototype app. The market research showed that there was interest in a better understanding of best practice surrounding weather and the correct concentration of pesticides to use as well as the opportunity to integrate pesticide usage and record management tools into one piece of software. As such four sections were defined – Weather, Calibration and dilution calculations, Records and Best practice tips.
At this point it was decided that it would be inappropriate for the app to offer agronomic advice, e.g. on the best pesticide to use as this would require site and pesticide-specific information that was not available to the app development team. In addition, the record keeping facility to be offered would be considerably simpler than that requested by some respondents.
2. Development of app interface
Prior to coding of the App interactive mock-ups and wireframes were created in Adobe XD and this imagery was presented to individuals working in agricultural industry support roles (e.g. staff in the Source to Tap project and representatives of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE)), Government and industry bodies (e.g. the Water Catchment Partnership, the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG)) and agricultural researchers in meetings where there opinions were sought.
Feedback from this process showed that:
- All parties were positive about the proposed product,
- Members of the FAIRWAY project and staff at CAFRE were concerned that the app needed to find its place in the market – it must either develop into a wide-ranging product that considers all aspects of pesticide use or it must focus in on the basics and seek to engage individuals who are often not keen to adopt technological solutions.
A further round of MoSCoW meetings identified those features that were to be included in the prototype version of the app, as well as a number of features that may increase the appeal of the app in later versions (»User review of prototype app: Future developments). The app development team elected to develop a simple app with little requirement for mobile or Wi-Fi connectivity in order to operate successfully and a diagrammatic representation of the highest levels of the menu system can be seen in Figure 4. Infrequent professional pesticide users, such as are commonly found in rural Northern Ireland were also confirmed as the primary target audience for this version of the app.
3. Process of coding the app
A Business Requirements Specification was developed and then a small in-house team of software developers followed an industry standard software development lifecycle process in line with internal best practices and procedures.
To leverage existing skills in AFBI, the system was developed using the Xamarin Open-source mobile app platform for .NET. As well as allowing the developers to code in the widely used C# language, using this platform provides the option to port the application to iOS at a later date with relatively little resource investment.
An object oriented approach to coding was taken using the recommended “Model – View – ViewModel” (MVVM) design pattern. As such, the different elements of the system were designed, coded and tested individually and then brought together to form the completed system. Weekly team meetings were held to review progress and resolve any impediments/issues. System testing was carried out using Android OS emulation software before being passed to AFBI scientists for the first round of user-acceptance testing.
Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see