Decision Enabling Data Collection and Management Project
This year has again been both rewarding and frustrating. The rewards include the fact that our training curriculum is completed. Our farmer cooperators are finding very exciting and useful uses for their PDA. The most promising new use for these devises our farmers and professionals have developed is with remote monitoring programs that are necessary for precision agriculture. Sadly, Dell, the company that manufactures our choice of PDA which is called an Axim, has suspended the production of PDA’s. This news was devastating as we adjusted to the many model changes last year and now the operation protocol we developed is basically obsolete. The adaptations of software developed for this program will still be relevant and the PDA use in the field is growing in usefulness and popularity. This project was granted an extension till September of 2008. The remaining time with this project will be spent studying this project’s merits and failures.
Thirty farmers will be making informed and timely, day-to-day and long range management decisions because their financial and production data are accurate and current as they have the ability to both collect and analyze this information in the field using a hand held computer. And second, the record keeping protocol that emerges from this program, as well as, a ten-lesson curriculum that allows other educators to teach it to more farmers, will be packaged and made ready for distribution in September 2007.
The target of thirty farmers using the PDA and participating in the program on a regular basis was not achieved. As stated last year we have 18 of the first generation farmers who are using the PDA on a daily basis to help them better manage their operations. One county group has emerged into a marketing club.
We have developed and modified several record keeping systems for use with the PDA. The farmers have been exposed to very intense training with Excel and Access programs because we have encouraged them to develop their own uses to make the PDA more beneficial. That might be the most important outcome of this project. The evaluation portion of this program is the work for the remainder of this project. Every one of the milestones has been accomplished; two in particular require some discussion. Our participating farm families have begun to look at their records more closely, as a result of this training. An agricultural marketing club has emerged as a result of this work, and now it has members that were not part of the original working group. As discussed in the 2006 report agent changes prevented us from providing our training to 68 farmers and we will ascertain that number in our final report.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Farm families are using this technology and we have gained much incite into how farmers keep records and how they understand computers. We have been challenged by the lack of computer use to solve problems. As this the early adopters mature into the technology they are using this training to springboard into other high tech programs. We are please about the relationship between the precision agriculture and the hand held computer. Many companies have adapted their software to accommodate the PDA.
We presented a PDA workshop to 120 market gardeners at the annual WV Small Farm Conference.