Hertfordshire farmer Mark Faure Walker was so frustrated by how much time and money he was wasting trying to manage data about his crops that he decided to design an app that would give him access to the information he needed in the field, even without internet access or a mobile signal.
The result is start-up agri-tech company fieldmargin, which has developed an innovative mapping tool that allows farmers and staff to share notes and comments on a map of the farm displayed on a smartphone.
fieldmargin is one of the decision support tools that could support Sustainable Intensification.
Georgie Moores, fieldmargin’s Marketing Manager, explains further:
“The fieldmargin app allows farmers or other farm-workers to add notes, issues or comments to geo-tagged points on their farm map, and share these with others. These features don’t require a phone signal or internet access, so fieldmargin can be used whilst out in the field.”
Moores explains that this could include letting someone know exactly which part of the fence needs fixing, seeing the notes and suggestions your agronomist has made during their visit while onsite, or alerting contractors to boggy areas in a particular field.
She continues: “We’re a company born of necessity – farmer Mark Faure Walker became so frustrated with being unable to access vital information that he decided to make software that would allow a farm to be managed anywhere – this software has developed into the tools we produce today.
“We want farmers to have all the data they could ever need at their fingertips, and to be able to share and discuss this easily.
“Imagine being able to send pictures of issues with your crop to the agronomist, share information about performance with your spray contractors, check tomorrow’s weather forecast, all in one place. That’s the kind of invaluable, integrated tool we want fieldmargin to develop into.”
The app is currently in its beta phase, which means the team is gathering data from a group of select users. Those without access to the beta version can still participate in the development of the app, however, as the team is also collating suggestions and input using a short survey, which is available at fieldmargin.com. The survey aims to determine levels of internet and smartphone usage amongst their target audience, in addition to the features that are most anticipated or desired.
Moores explains why this stage of the process is so important: “The app currently is a simple version of the tool we want it to become; we’re constantly building and adding new features based on the feedback we receive from our customers.
“We also have a close relationship with FERA, as we use some of their data and guidelines in our crop recorder.
“Our main challenge at present is attracting the best talent to further develop the app and also prioritising the features we can add to it – we have a huge list so this is a challenge!”
The concept of the ‘connected farm’– where data is shared between machines, systems and other farms – has become increasingly prevalent in the agri-tech industry, and Moores explains why this is so important for fieldmargin:
“We’re very keen on using open data, so interfacing with other tools is one of our priorities for the future.
“We want to integrate as much data as possible into fieldmargin, and visualise the data in a simple and elegant way so farmers can have the information they need, at their fingertips, at all times. Simply put, we want to make farmer’s lives easier!”
You can tell the fieldmargin team what you would like to see as part of the app by taking the survey at www.fieldmargin.com – respondents have the chance to win an iPad and will be notified when the app is released.
There will be a discussion about decision support tools at the SIP meeting: Innovations for Sustainable Intensification, Sophi Taylor Building, Park Farm, Histon, 14 September, 2016
7 June, 2016
Rob Carter, fieldmargin’s CEO and co-founder, presented as part of the Start-Up Showcase at REAP 2015