|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. Stakeholder feedback collection - prototype app|
|2. The respondents|
|3. Review results|
|4. Future developments|
|5. Suitability of the app for use in jurisdictions outside the UK|
|[Note: The Appendix referred to below is included in the »full report]|
Note: Legal restrictions on travel and meeting with individuals within Northern Ireland in early 2021, associated with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, meant that it was not possible to arrange face-to-face meetings during the period of time when feedback on the app was being gathered. This meant that it was necessary to present the final prototype app to all respondents in web-based meetings. The benefit of this was that it allowed for an expanded range of professional bodies to be consulted, particularly within continental Europe. However, it is recognised that is has made it more difficult to reach the core target audience of this app.
A series of six online meetings were scheduled for late March 2021 and details of these meetings were released in the first week of March via email (Appendix D in the »full report) and Twitter. Recipients of the email were encouraged to share the information with colleagues and contacts whom they believed would be interested. As a result there were a total of 64 attendees at the webinars.
Each presentation started with a brief introduction to the FAIRWAY project and the purpose of the app before a live demonstration was given. A version of the presentation that included screenshots of the app only was also prepared, in case of technical difficulties being experienced and this can be seen in Appendix E in the »full report, alongside a list of key points to be discussed in each slide. Attendee feedback was gathered through use of the web service Mentimeter (www.mentimeter.com). In addition a Word document version of the questions (Appendix F in the »full report) was distributed to all attendees after the event as it was recognised that not all participants would be willing to share their opinions online. Response to all/any questions was optional.
In total 50 individuals’ shared their opinions and these individuals represented a variety of professional backgrounds (Figure 7) from across the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Europe (Table 2). 43% of respondents (n = 47) had undertaken some form of professional pesticide user training course during their career, whilst only 21% (n = 47) had used pesticides in the last year.
Table 2: The country within which respondents worked.
Individuals operating within the United Kingdom were asked to clarify which of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom they worked within.
|Country||Number of individuals|
|UK||UK (England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland)||1|
|Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland)||1|
|Republic of Ireland||13|
Market research at the start of the project had made it clear that the infrequent professional pesticide user market was actually much wider than just the farmers originally envisaged as the target audience. The amenity sector (e.g. golf courses and sports grounds), as well as organisations such as councils would potentially be interested in this app and so the rest of the questions were written with this in mind.
Overall reviewers were very positive with 84% (n = 45) of respondents stating that they believed that the app delivered the key information required by the users in order to manage their pesticide usage. Reviewers were also asked to assess how suitable the app was for each of three identified sub-groups of users. 94% (n = 47) of reviews felt that the app was suitable for infrequent users of pesticides, 96% (n = 47) felt that the app was suitable for users who would like assistance with calibration and dilution calculations and 92% (n = 47) of respondents felt that the app was suitable for users who wanted access to an easy-to-use, straightforward decision support tool.
The pre-development market research exercise (»Background: 4. Market research results) also made it clear that there were differing views about the breadth of issues that the app should seek to address. There were those who were keen to see a very simple and paired down app and there were those who wanted a much more diverse app that would centralise a number of functions currently offered by a mixture of apps. As such the reviewers were asked to assess whether the decision to keep the app simple was the correct one, in their opinion. This was achieved by asking respondents to rate how strongly they agreed with four statements on a scale of 1 (Strongly disagree) to 10 (Strongly agree). The weighted average of responses is shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Weighted average of respondent’s evaluation of whether specific changes in the app would improve the appeal of the tool to users.
|Would the app benefit from…||Weighted average of the responses|
|An area for pesticide store record management||7.1|
|An area for record keeping||7.7|
|An expanded feature set||5.5|
|Staying simple. No more features||7.2|
Reviewers were also given the opportunity to suggest any other changes that they felt the app needed and the answers showed a strong signal for the inclusion of more information and support materials in the “Disposal Advice” section, perhaps converting it to a “Hints and Tips” section instead. A number of respondents suggested that information on the correct placement and use of buffer strips as well as Local Environment Risk Assessment for Pesticides (LERAPs) would be beneficial. Several respondents suggested that the app should include some basic agronomic information (pesticide label dilution rates, target weed species, limits on usage, etc.) and a small number suggested including a QR code reader to allow users to access the manufacturers’ information directly. One respondent also suggested that the app should carry information about the help and support the local water utility is currently providing, for example details of planned pesticide amnesties or awareness raising days. There were also a number of individuals who suggested that non-pesticide approaches to weed management should be presented.
Updates to existing, and new features that were suggested included the expansion of the “SprayDay” output to specify why particular hours were unsuitable for spraying as this would make good use of a learning opportunity. Also suggested was the expansion of the targeted sprayer devices to include Controlled Droplet application (CDA) sprayers that are popular in the amenity sector, air assisted boom sprayers and drone sprayers. Finally the development of a version of the app that would record and return data to a centralised administration, whether that be for government records or as part of a catchment-scale scientific research project was proposed.
There were also a number of comments around the potential of the app to assist users in completion of the paperwork associated with the application of professional pesticide products. The facility to record the weather, as reported in the “Good Day to Spray” section of the app at the time of spraying was requested, as was the ability to integrate some form of mapping tool that would allow users to graphically determine the area of land that they intend to spray.
Whilst the work undertaken to date completes the work required within the FAIRWAY project it is recognised that there are a number of steps needed to bring the app to TRL9. In addition the original market research (»Background: 3. Market research) and the reviewer feedback above shows that there are a number of potential future developments which would increase the utility and appeal of the app to potential users.
Development to bring the app to TRL9
- Field Trials: The ongoing Covid-19 regulations meant that it was not possible to trial this product in the field and there is a clear need for this work to be undertaken.
- Updates to the existing app functionality highlighted in the above trials.
- Update of weather data predictions: As previously discussed the way in which weather data is handled currently means that it is not possible to provide a “Good Day to Day Spray” review for today, which is clearly a significant weakness in the app. The current approach was adopted at this stage because of the complexity of handling weather data at this scale. That said, the protocols necessary to address this problem already exist and the development team have begun to investigate the work that would need to be undertaken to address this problem. This work should be continued.
Additional features/functions that could be included
- Update of weather data source: As previously discussed the current version of the app only uses weather data from the UK Meteorological Office. It has already been noted that this would potentially limit the appeal of the product to non-UK residents, but it should also be noted that individuals within the UK often have clear preferences around meteorological service providers they believe to be reliable. Future development could be to integrate other weather data suppliers into the app which the user could choose from (e.g. Met Eireann, or Meteo Weather).
- Expansion of App Functions: The app currently provides a basic suite of services to all users. As such there is the potential for further development of the product by the inclusion of a login facility and further tiers of support.
- Tier 1 (Entry level) – app presented as is with no log in required
- Tier 2 (Advanced user) – Log in required. Professional use of pesticides requires the generation of a number of documents each time pesticides are purchased, applied or disposed of (e.g. Pesticide store management and spray activity records). This tier of membership would allow users to perform much of this through their app and documentation could then be exported to a device attached to a printer when the user is in the office.
- Tier 3 (Research catchment) – customisable services and information gathering tools that allow farmers participating within a research project to share specific items of data with research scientists without repeated completion of paperwork, e.g. sprayer calibration parameters, spray activity records, other parameters defined by the research project. The research project would provide users with an activation code.
- Operation System: At present the app is written solely within the Android environment and there is the need to adjust the app such that it will also operate on the Apple platform. The benefit of targeting the Linux and Windows mobile operating systems should also be explored.
A major finding of earlier parts of Work Package 5 of the Fairway Project (Nicholson et al. 2020) was that the majority of Decision Support Tools are not suitable for adoption outside the country that they were initially developed for. It is recognised that this version of the app has been developed predominantly for the UK/Irish market, but it is suggested that key developments from TL6 to TL9 could include customisation for other countries as well. Specifically:
- Weather data - Currently the UK Meteorological Office provides the weather data for the app. The resolution of this data is much higher for locations within the UK than elsewhere, but international data is available. The data is provided to AFBI in an industry standard format and so supply contracts could be negotiated with other suppliers.
- Language – the apps native language is English, but could be translated into other languages.
The SprayDay app is a Decision Support Tool designed to assist infrequent users of professional pesticide products with adoption of best practice and there is a particular focus on providing information on the planning and execution of pesticide application. The app has been developed to approximately TL6 and has primarily targeted the Northern Irish/UK market, but could be adapted for the international market as part of a programme of further developments focused on developing the app to TL9. Reviews suggest that the app has successfully been designed to appeal to infrequent users of pesticides from agricultural backgrounds, as well as non-agricultural users, such as, groundskeepers for sports pitches and golf courses, environmental bodies and local councils who are responsible for the management of green spaces
Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see »References