Virginia Fruit AdVisor:

PDAs as Extension Delivery Tools

19 October 2010

The Virginia Fruit AdVisor Project:
The Fruit AdVisor project endeavors to use PDAs or smart phones as extension delivery tools, specifically for the dissemination of fruit IPM information and other fruit related issues. Users will have installed in their PDAs information on pest biology, monitoring methods, current population activity, pest control recommendations, and updated regulatory issues. Pest trapping data collected in individual orchards may be uploaded to an IPM specialist's computer, facilitating evaluation of data, and creating of a trapping data network.

Although the current proposal is for a pilot program for Virginia fruit producers, the final product will lend itself easily to growers in other states in the Southeast, and can be adapted to other commodities as well, largely by substituting files contained in the PDA.

Specific applications that work towards the goals of the project are discussed below:

Personal Digital Assistants:
Personal digital assistants (aka PDAs, organizers, handhelds) are small (pocket-sized) computers that have become popular as personal organizers.  Many popular models have 8-16 MB of memory; some models possess quite a bit more, but at a higher cost.
Basic functions may be adapted for the individual user (address book, date book, expenses, to-do-list etc.).
Data files are backed up and updated when PDA is synchronized with desktop computer.  The user may also use memory cards, depending on the PDA model, available at an exta cost.  This not only can back up data, but expands the memory of the device.  This extra safeguard may easily pay for itself with added security.  Several operating systems are available.  The Palm OS is used by Palm devices.  Palm OS devices were selected for this project because of cost, and ease of use.

Virginia Fruit Web Site In the initial phase of the Fruit AdVisor program, web-clipping software was used to install current web pages onto the PDA or smart phone.  With the proliferation of smart phones, and the termination of the web-clipping service, our program now relies entirely on wireless connectivity.  The existing Virginia Fruit Web Site has been modified and streamlined to fit the small PDA, and the crop pages (apple, grape, stone fruit, pear, and small fruit) are available as AvantGo channels.  Examples of the information included are:

Record-keeping and data collection GIS, GPS Weather  
Virginia Fruit Homepage

Douglas G. Pfeiffer