Tech Keeps Seed Production Field Employees Safe

Tassel time is go time for seed production field crews and fungicide application.

For Joel Meyer during peak aerial application season it would take one and a half full-time employees to receive and input maps sent from seed companies identifying where their ag worker crews would be located. 

“And we’d typically get a bulk batch of 13 fields where the crews are going to be working, but we never knew when they were done, or the order where they were working fields,” Meyer, who operates Meyer Agri-Air in Wellsburg, Iowa, explains. “We were receiving daily updates from up to 16 seed company branches via email and/or fax, and it took a lot of effort to make sure we knew were crews were going to be.”

Concurrently, seed production teams were tasked with keeping their in-field teams safe and as distant from aerial applications taking place in nearby fields. 

Bottom line: there is room for improvement in how these two ag industries could communicate.

Two years ago, Jim Webster, a 35-year veteran of Corteva/Pioneer, took on this challenge because he saw the opportunity to make everyone safer and more productive. 

“There was a recognition that everyone could be doing a better job communicating,” Webster says. “We knew paper maps or multiple electronic files were just prone to errors and weren’t timely.”
Webster and Meyer aligned the Iowa seed industry stakeholders and the state’s aerial applicators to adopt a common platform built from the FieldWatch registry. 

“We were members already of FieldWatch to know where the sensitive crops are and the bees,” Meyer says. “Putting in the seed crews, it’s like a new form of sliced bread.” 

This year, SeedFieldCheck will be piloted in Iowa to help seed companies communicate the location and presence of seed field workers to pesticide applicators. It is supported by the Iowa Seed Association, Iowa Agricultural Aviation Association and FieldWatch, and it is endorsed by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Agribusiness Association of Iowa. Industry participants include AgReliant, Bayer, Becks, Corteva, Remington Seeds, and Syngenta. 

“We wanted to keep the system simple and straightforward,” Webster says. “Timing is critical in seed production because it’s a perishable crop. We need workers in the field, and we need to know we are all doing what we can to keep everyone safe.” 

The goal is to expand this into other states. 

Updated hourly, field locations will be flagged as “planned” or “occupied” for field workers.

“As a business owner, it’s not just getting the work done. It’s helping us know we are keeping crews safe. If the weather is good, our planes take off at 5:45 a.m. This tool will allow us to look at our orders, look at where the crews plan to be, and then plan ahead ourselves much better,” Meyer says. “Also, once a crew leaves a field, the manager can mark it done in the platform, so now we know that field is unoccupied.” 

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