Sustainable Management Tool awarded $25K MTRAC Starter Grant

The Sustainable Management Tool (SMT) has been awarded a $25k MTRAC Starter grant after receiving an $7500 MSU Technology Innovation grant. This project is a joint effort between MSU’s Animal Science Department (Dr. Karen Chou and Dr. Cara Robinson) and the Department of Computer Science & Engineering (Dr. Dennis Phillips). The SMT is a suite of web and mobile applications to facilitate informed decision making, recordkeeping, and error checking for sustainable agriculture production.

Using this system managers will be able to compare health and environmental risk, pesticidal efficacy, cost, and modes of action of multiple effective pesticides in one glance. In considering the geographic and climate needs for Michigan growers, the risk assessment is performed for the 60 most frequently used pesticides by Michigan vineyards. The risk values are calculated based on individual user inputs, i.e., they are risk values applicable for a specific user, and depend upon the size of the field sprayed, methods of application, and equipment available. The managers, therefore, can make informed risk- and benefit-based decisions. The proposed SMT also checks for potential operational errors, displays GPS spray tracking, records spray history, auto-fills pesticide application forms, sends reminders and notifications to workers and neighboring homes and schools, assigns and tracks task performance, displays weather forecast, records current weather conditions, auto calculates and displays reentry time and date, and provides other capabilities.

The target users are organization owners, managers, workers, pesticide applicators, and pesticide toxicity and efficacy researchers. The first prototype is specifically designed for Michigan vineyards. The project has been in close communication with Michigan growers, individually, and through the Michigan Wine Collaborative. Many growers have expressed their enthusiasm about using the SMT as soon as possible. Many have committed to perform beta testing, which this funding will be utilized for. Through discussions with the Michigan Wine Collaborative, it is estimated that when the SMT is released, for the growing season of 2023, approximately 1000 acres of Michigan grapes will be produced using this sustainable application. Usage is expected to grow at an annual rate of 10%. Furthermore, SMT is planned to be expanded so that later versions can be conveniently used by other fruit and vegetable producers.

(Date Posted: 2021-11-02)