A NEW research project has been launched to evaluate the use of smartphone apps in agriculture and producer attitudes towards these tools, in order to ensure future tools and technologies meet their needs.
Sheep CRC sponsored post-graduate student Penny Schulz said the aim of the research was to develop a guide for app developers to follow to ensure new tools were relevant and widely adopted.
“In rural industry there is a big focus on data, information and technology at the moment, but I saw a gap in the extension of these tools and how useful they may be to farmers,” Mrs Schulz said.
“So I’m hoping to gain a better understanding of how producers are making their decisions about what technology to use, the decisions they make as a result of using technology, and whether that is the same use as what the app developer intended.”
As part of her three-year PhD supervised by Dr Julian Prior and Professor Geoff Hinch at the University of New England (UNE), Mrs Schulz will use the Sheep CRC’s popular web-based app, RamSelect, as a cornerstone for her research.
RamSelect hold particular appeal because during its development there were extensive end-user interviews undertaken to understand producer needs and how they interacted with the app design.
Mrs Schulz will also monitor the development of the Sheep CRC’s next app under construction through UNE’s Agile App team. It is being designed as an early intervention sheep management tool to assist producers in ensuring all animals in their care are healthy and productive. The novel feature of the app will be its ability to automatically update predictions of environmental risks and animal resilience/susceptibility in real-time, without needing labour-intensive inputs from sheep producers.
“Apps and online tools like this that utilise big data technology, have huge potential for simplifying complex information and enabling producers to make more informed and timely decisions to improve productivity, animal wellbeing and profitability,” Mrs Schulz said.