See it, speak it, record it. No pens, no paper, no lost information. In a nutshell that’s what Bruce Rasa is trying to deliver to precision agriculture professionals who rely on collecting valid scouting data.
Called AgVoice, this system provides a voice-to-data, workflow management service for food and ag professionals. The first target market is not growers, ranchers or producers, but what Rasa calls “the army of experts that support them.”
They can be deep experts like plant breeders in an R&D environment, or professional agronomists, or pest control advisors supporting growers. But by combining a uniquely tailored industrial-grade voice-enabled user experience with a cloud-based proprietary analytics platform, AgVoice enables users to achieve verifiable fast inspections, reporting and workflow management for the agri-food supply chain more accurately than existing conventional processes.
“These accurate, actionable insights can improve yield, reduce risk and optimize sustainable use of water, fertilizer and pesticides,” says Rasa. “Our uniqueness comes from features like dynamic voice-driven form fill that enables a user to speak unstructured data in any non-linear order but our service converts that to structured data in linear format.
Rasa provided some additional insights into the AgVoice system in a recent interview:
Q. How does capturing the location data optimize this process? I assume this takes a lot of the human error around field scouting out of the equation, as agronomists/scouts no longer must remember spots in the field or jot down Long/Lat coordinates?
As a location-based service, this is one element that helps with context. Yes, auto recording of the location does aid in tracking and reporting.
Q. What’s the main hook for service providers that work hand-in-hand with growers? Just the overall increase in efficiency and accuracy in record keeping? Or are there perhaps hidden benefits/attributes of the system that we haven’t addressed just yet?
Greater data capture efficiency and productivity. With this agronomists tell us that they want to ‘get to one more field’ each day to be able to grow their business and cover more acres for growers. With the power of voice they are enabled to take more comprehensive records, faster that conventional methods.
The hidden benefit that the user is not forced to always look at, touch, and tie up both of their hands interacting with their smartphone or iPad mini. With voice and audio capture and playback for confirmation, the user has the freedom to do more and to keep records in parallel with physically inspecting the crop hands-on. They can focus on what matters most to their expertise.
Q. I understand this product is just another advance in “hands free” enabled technology (Google Glass) in farming. How do you feel hands free enabled technology will revolutionize the professional agronomist’s daily workflow?
It’s true that this venture was inspired by a Google ‘moonshot’ a little more than two years ago. I was fortunate to be the first person in the agriculture industry to test smartglasses with hundreds of people. In short, they loved the idea of a voice-driven, hands-free data capture means, but needed the service tailored for their specific domain vs. just being general purpose.
Our team is a huge believer in an “eyes-free, hands-free” future for ag professionals. We love working with our innovation partners and absolutely see a complimentary role for this piece of the puzzle to take hold and flourish with users and ag enterprises.
There are emerging wearable devices like the Apple AirPods that can enable some ‘hands free’ operation, but Apple has some work to do before that product matures beyond the consumer market for the vertically oriented industrial or enterprise markets. If Apple wants advice on how to improve their product, they can call me. Since I buy almost all their gear, I bet they can find my number somewhere.
To be blunt, Silicon Valley tends to obsess over creating mobile apps that seems to be made to consume the time of teenagers, constantly addicted and looking down at their screens. Our customer discovery shows that ag professionals want a better way to work.
Q. What will the 2017 release look like? Where can agronomists download AgVoice for the 2017 growing season? What different devices can it run on? Any major U.S. retailers or cooperatives signed up already to have its agronomy staff using AgVoice that you can discuss here?
We testing our field trial version of the AgVoice service during the last half of 2016 in the Midwest and mid-south. The service is currently in a closed beta phase as we are continuing to add new features.
Our service runs smartphones. We also have a select range of optional industrial-grade wireless Bluetooth headsets to enable hands-free use. We test and recommend these headsets to users to optimize their data capture experience.
We have multiple early adopter agronomy-related R&D teams, and cooperatives, evaluating the current AgVoice service. We’re targeting major U.S. retailers in the next phase as we broaden the service for more mainstream users.
Q. Anything else that we didn’t touch on that you feel is important to note for our audience of professional service providers working with growers to optimize their use of technology on the farm?
There are a lot of great dashboards in the ag tech industry. We’ve heard over and over again from professional service providers that the value is in the sharing of secure data in support of growers. You’ll likely see us play a role as a complimentary building block to the many dashboards in the industry that empowers these ag professionals to more efficiently and productively serve their end growers, ranchers and producers.