When Will Connell was contracted to assist Fowler Crop Consulting with data collection, Daniel Fowler tasked him with developing a system for recording weekly crop inspections and recommendations on their contracted fields across North Carolina and Virginia. With its flexibility and power, MapItFast with Strider Forms proved to be the exact right tool for Fowler’s operations.
Fowler Crop Consulting knew that they needed to digitize their data collection operations to streamline workflow for their staff of 20+ agronomists and scouts. For a company whose users operate in remote locations over a large geographic area, this is no small request. They also needed a solution that could be deployed quickly while being affordable, easy to use and designed for professional use.
After Will investigated and tried multiple solutions, MapItFast with Strider Forms proved to be the right tool for the job. MapItFast allows the agricultural staff to map activities and electronically fill forms from their Android or Apple devices while working in the field. All the work they perform in the app is automatically synced to their private and secure cloud account so they only enter data once. Daniel follows the progress from a distance using his own mobile device or the MapItFast web app without the need for constant phone calls that disrupt the work that needs to be done.
When he first started, Will wasn’t exactly sure how to put together a data collection program. But he did have a good understanding of his team’s goals for data collection and a willingness to figure out the best way to achieve them. The flexibility of a general mapping and data collection system like MapItFast with Strider Forms means there is no limit to the business challenges that can be solved with a little bit of planning and experimentation.
Will also discovered that if he ran into an issue that he couldn’t figure out, he could make a direct call to AgTerra to get one-on-one help at no extra cost. After working with Will to understand his reporting requirements, AgTerra was able to help make the data collection even more functional. An initial system for field data collection was accepted by the users and deployed in time for the crop season. Will has continued to make adjustments and build out his system over time in response to the team’s experience in the field.
Read on to see some of the goals Fowler Crop Consulting had for adding digital data collection to their crop scouting operations and the ways MapItFast and Strider helped them bring those goals to fruition.
Map-Centric Projects Keep a Dispersed Team Connected
Nearly all agricultural data is spatial in nature, so data collection for crop scouting often begins by locating the crop field on the map. During the course of the growing season, Fowler Crop Consulting gathers relevant crop data and photos while working at that location.
MapItFast has been particularly useful for Fowler’s operations because the mobile app screen provides a visual representation of everything your team is working on. Team members are able to zoom to a particular area to see sites that have been mapped; tap a site to see more details about it; and conveniently add new sites as needed.
By consolidating all their data collection needs within one mobile app, they can easily understand and complete the work in front of them. When moving between crop fields, the navigation link in MapItFast allows them to use their favorite navigation app to take them to the next site.
MapItFast also helps with collaboration, as each team member can see the locations and status of everyone else on the map. Most crucially, they can fill out their crop scouting form directly from MapItFast and attach it to the appropriate field marker. This ensures that all their observation work stays conveniently organized.
Agriculturalists Receive Automatic Alerts
Fowler’s workflow involves weekly inspections of every single field. With the amount of work to be done, they need an easy way to verify that each field has been checked off for the week. This makes AgTerra’s Active Map Triggers especially handy. Active Map Triggers help keep track of project status because they automatically update the styling of map objects when a particular form entry is submitted.
In Fowler’s case, an inspection form is filled every time an inspection takes place. A submitted form counts as verification that the inspection was performed. Once the inspection form is submitted, the field icon is triggered to change to a symbol that indicates completion.
Daniel can see at a glance what fields have been addressed and which ones are still left to be done. If a field remains unchanged beyond the date it was scheduled to be surveyed, the team manager can easily see who the field was assigned to and determine its status. Sometimes a field couldn’t be addressed or a form didn’t get properly submitted. The trigger serves as a tool to provide a heads up. Fowler has a third-party database they prefer to use for more advanced data analysis and data archiving. During the week, agronomists export completed reports to review and process recommendations. At the end of each week, Daniel exports all the observation data for the week and “resets” the system by deleting the records from Strider. This reset changes all the triggers and map symbols back to the unobserved state so the field crew can start again with a new set of forms.
Updating Map Styling with Forms
Active Map Triggers are just one of the data collection innovations that AgTerra is known for. All the field user has to do is fill out their form as usual. Strider fires the trigger automatically, and MapItFast updates to visually display the form content.
Triggers can even be set up on Date or Time fields in a form to provide simple scheduling alerts. As one example, you can set up your trigger to change a polygon from green to yellow to red on a set schedule to alert workers when they need to perform follow up site visits.
Electronic Forms Capture Crop Information
The central component of Fowler’s data collection program is the unified crop scouting form. This gets filled out for every observation of a field. It contains general information about the field and the scout crew, and then their checklist of observations, which is specific to the type of crop planted in the field.
Will wanted the data collection process to be as easy on the scouts as possible while still capturing all the relevant data. To do this, he made use of the MapItFast form integration to pull in information about the field that the form is attached to. Then, creative use of relevance logic allowed him to set up the form so that only the checklist for the specific crop and crop stage being observed displays to the scout. That way, they can utilize one form for all their observations, without having to swipe through a bunch of irrelevant pages to find the crop checklist they are after.
For Will, the key feature of form filling component in MapItFast is its flexibility. Fowler has unique operational needs, and they want a system that fits their workflow, rather than the other way around. With Strider, Will can build their observation form to the team’s precise needs. As they grow and develop, he can update their form to keep up.
Getting to the Next Field
Fowler appreciates the flexibility and scalability of MapItFast. For future development, they are looking to incorporate weekly route planning into the list of operations being managed in MapItFast. The plan is to utilize the fact that multiple forms can be associated with a single crop field to eliminate the tedious and time-consuming planning out the weekly routes and emailing schedules for each scout.
Using Strider, Will created a simple scheduling form that indicates where in the route a field should be addressed. An Active Map Trigger labels the field with a numbered icon corresponding to its order in the schedule. To adjust the schedule, they simply update the form for the affected fields, and the map adjusts automatically with new numbered icons.
While this new implementation hasn’t been rolled out to scouts for this season, they are excited for the prospect of saving time and hassle for both Daniel and the field scouts. Instead of waiting for a customized email with their weekly schedule, the field scouts will be able to look at their project in MapItFast and see exactly when each field needs to be addressed.
AgTerra’s MapItFast with Strider forms provides Fowler Crop Consulting with a complete field-to-reporting solution. It facilitates collaboration among a team that is spread across a wide working area and brings together a wealth of crop information in one centralized location. Digitizing their crop scouting form and implementing it within a map-centric platform has allowed a premier crop scouting firm to maintain their competitive advantage and stay ahead of the curve.