DriftWatch upgraded for specialty crops registry

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FieldWatch Inc. has successfully transitioned to its national version of the online DriftWatch  specialty crop site registry for high-value, specialty crops and apiaries to a new technology platform. The expanded and refined communication tool represents the evolution of the web-based registry from a research prototype within Purdue University to an independent commercial model designed for further expansion, including the ability to add states beyond the nine currently participating.

The DriftWatch registry allows crop producers to identify and map the location of their sensitive crops such as tomatoes, fruit trees, grapes, vegetables and organic crops, providing a stewardship resource for applicators to consult before spraying. As part of the transition, the proprietary DriftWatch software and database are now hosted by a professional provider in a secure cloud environment. Other improvements to the new commercial version of the registry include updated Google Maps for improved utility and imagery and the relocation of all state web pages and data onto a single server for uniformity and consistency. FieldWatch will continue to incorporate improvements in data integrity, efficiencies, processes, accuracy, and ease of use as future software versions are rolled out.

As a voluntary online registry, DriftWatch originated in Indiana within Purdue's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) in 2008. The registry’s success was quickly noticed and adopted by state departments of agriculture in nine other states, most within the Midwest. The success and expansion of the registry highlighted the need to transition into a viable independent entity focused on providing a comprehensive national registry. Purdue’s Bernie Engel, Ph.D., head of ABE and a key player in the registry’s original launch and growth, feels that DriftWatch’s national platform is a huge step forward for specialty crop production in America.

“This registry has proven to be very effective in heading off potential problems between those who grow specialty crops and those who may not be aware of certain crops in their area that may be sensitive to the products they’re applying. Seeing DriftWatch able to go national is exciting,” said Engel. “Speaking for Purdue, we’ve enjoyed the opportunity to take some ideas, do some research, and get a prototype created. But it was time to move it outside the university and return to our core focus—education, outreach, and research.”

The independent non-profit entity FieldWatch, Inc. was created by Purdue when it became apparent that the registry’s continued growth and success would benefit from dedicated staff and wide collaboration among agricultural stakeholder groups.  Since its creation in December of last year, the non-profit corporation has established an independent board of directors and worked diligently to achieve a collaborative and balanced perspective of registry constituents; including producers, applicators, manufacturing, state departments of agriculture and other industry-at-large entities. Purdue University continues its involvement in the project with the Dean of Agriculture as an ex-officio voting board member.

“Many, many people have come together and contributed thought and effort to this transition, and it’s exciting to see it starting to bear fruit,” said Reid Sprenkel, president/CEO, of the new FieldWatch organization. “The concept of an online registry for specialty crops has demonstrated its value many times over in Indiana and other states, reducing the number and severity of incidents caused by spray drift. We’re very proud to now be able to offer a refined and improved registry with the capability to operate on a national level.  Now all interested states can benefit from enhanced and secure identification, notification and communication among producers and applicators. We’re confident that those who try our service will be very pleased with the results.”

Producers and applicators who are already registered users of DriftWatch will automatically be transferred into the newly expanded system without further action on their part. User interface will remain virtually the same as in the previous version. Producers and applicators from states currently in the system who are interested in joining the registry can easily complete the registration process through the DriftWatch registry at www.driftwatch.org.

To learn more about FieldWatch and to gain access to the DriftWatch registry, visit the new website at www.fieldwatch.com.

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