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  • Kevin Cussen

LiteFarm, now heavy with features

Dear LiteFarm Community,


For the last several months, our team has been working diligently to bring you some great new features. In addition to our talented core team of design and software professionals, we’ve had the support of dozens of knowledgeable farmers, scientists, researchers, open source contributors, and others that have made this release possible.


There is no way I could personally thank every individual that has supported the LiteFarm initiative in one way or another over the last few months, so I’ll just say a big, collective THANK YOU to everyone that has gotten us to this point! This product and community only exist because of the thousands of hours of effort all of you have contributed.


And without further ado… starting October 30th, the following features will be available:





Crops


We’ve completely overhauled the way crops are handled in LiteFarm. Previously, the crops module was simply a way to indicate the area farmers are cultivating and how much they expected to be able to harvest from that area. With our new release, the crops module has significantly more breadth and depth. We’ve also gathered and pre-populated many crop attributes as a starting point. Here’s the shortlist:

  • LiteFarm now supports 375 different crop types and more than 8,000 crop-related attributes such as perennial or annual status, designation as a cover crop, estimated time from germination to first harvest, and dozens of others - all in an easy, searchable crop catalogue interface.

  • For each of these crop types, users can create as many varietals as they would like and customize the attributes and images of each varietal.

  • For all varietals at the farm, users can now track attributes related to the organic status of their seed, including designation of supplier/origin, organic certification status, whether the seed is genetically engineered or treated, and whether a commercial availability search has been performed for non-organic seeds. Combined with our Documents module (discussed below) farmers will now be able to generate everything they need to document their seeds and other inputs for submission to many organic and agroecological certification bodies across the globe.



What will happen to my existing crops?


Any crops documented in your account that existed prior to this release will be carried over as crops with completed crop management plans (more on that in the next section). We don’t expect any data loss.


Where are we going next with Crops?


We’ll continue to find more data about our crops and add additional crop types. In the medium term, we’re also going to try and create regionally specific growing and price information for crops.





Crop management plans


Crop management plans are completely new in LiteFarm. They represent the lifespan of a crop and all the activities that need to take place for its cultivation. For example, the crop management plan for microgreens would have relatively few tasks spanning just a few weeks, while the crop management plan for an olive grove might require thousands of hours of upkeep and span generations! Crop management plans are a way to encapsulate all the activities and inputs required for the successful cultivation of crops on a farm.


  • For all varietals on the farm, users can now create any number of field-specific crop management plans to describe all the dates and activities needed for the cultivation of that crop; this provides users with the ability to easily manage successive plantings and crops grown in multiple locations on the farm.

  • Users can now specify whether a crop will be planted from seed, seedling or planting stock, or that a crop is already in the ground.

  • Users can now specify the planting method used for a crop from one of the following methods: rows, beds, broadcast, drill, individual, or container - each of these choices then informs calculations such as footprint, estimated seed required, and estimated yield.

  • For many crops, LiteFarm will suggest and pre-populate planting instructions such as planting method, whether it should be transplanted, plant spacing, seed depth, row / bed width, etc.

  • When saving a crop management plan, LiteFarm will automatically generate tasks (more on this in the Tasks section below) such as seeding, transplanting, and harvesting according to suggested dates in the plan; these tasks can then be assigned to individuals on the farm and rescheduled as needed.

  • Users can now create crop management plans for wild crops on their farms and in the surrounding areas.

  • At the end of the season, users can rank their crop management plans and record notes about what worked well and what didn’t.

  • Users can abandon or modify their crop management plans and indicate what went wrong; from weather, to poor seed, to labour issues, or any other reason.


Will existing data be impacted?


Any crops that had existed prior to this release will be carried over as completed crop management plans. We don’t anticipate any data loss as part of this update.


Where are we going next with crop management plans?


In a future release, we would like to build out the ability to copy (individually and in bulk) crop management plans from one season to another and from one location to another - if either of these features are important to your operations please visit our roadmap and upvote these ideas!





Tasks


Tasks are a new feature in LiteFarm that tie together the previous logs and shifts features. Tasks describe the lifecycle of an activity on a farm. When initially created, they can be assigned to anyone that works on or has access to the farm, such as farm workers and extension officers, respectively. That user will then see reminders in their Tasks homepage on what needs to be done and when. Once they’ve completed the task, they can “Mark it as completed”. This completion then serves as a record of the activity (which was previously captured in logs) and as hours worked by that person, which can be used for labour tracking or calculating wages (which was previously captured in shifts).


  • LiteFarm currently supports 7 different types of tasks: plant, transplant, amend soil, clean (tools and facilities), field work, pest control, and harvest.

  • In addition to the standard task types, users will have the ability to create and manage custom task types visible only to users at their farm.

  • After creating a crop management plan (see above), several tasks will be automatically generated for that plan based on user inputs during plan creation.

  • Users can now view a “to do” list where they can see all tasks assigned to them and those tasks due dates.

  • Farm owners, managers, and extension officers can also view a list of unassigned tasks on their farm that need to be carried out and quickly assign them from this list.

  • Users can mark tasks as completed, indicating how long it took, how much they enjoyed the work, and any notes relevant to doing the task.

  • Users can now mark tasks as abandoned, indicating why they were abandoned, whether and how much time they committed to the task and any notes relevant to what happened.

  • Farm owners, managers, and extension officers can quickly change who is assigned to a task and when it’s due as priorities shift on the farm.

  • Tasks related to Organic certification will automatically be incorporated into Organic certification document exports as long as they fall into the reporting period specified by the user.


Will existing data be impacted?


We don’t think so. All existing logs and shifts should become completed tasks with the new release. That said, there may be some strangeness in how they display on some users’ farms. The important thing to note is that all user data has been backed up and can be restored by contacting us directly at support@litefarm.org.


Where are we going next with Tasks?


We’re just at the beginning of what we’d like to do with tasks. A few of the updates we’d like to focus on in the near future are:

  • Re-introduction of some of the task types that were available previously, including: Sales, Transport, Irrigation, Weed, and Scout. For the time being, you can accomplish re-create these with custom task types. We are working to audit and improve these for future releases.

  • Introduction of new task types such as Prune, Collect soil sample, Document soil sample, and others.

  • The ability to assign an “all hands on deck” task to several individuals on the farm.

  • In-app notifications to inform users about upcoming tasks.






Documents


The Documents module will allow users to upload documents and images related to the operation of their farm directly into LiteFarm. From photos of receipts, to invoices, to cashed checks captured with a smart device, the Documents module is a convenient way to keep track of paperwork necessary for running a farm. However, the true power of the Documents module lies in users' ability to keep track of documents necessary for compliance with organic standards (read more in the next section) directly in the app.


  • Users can now upload documents and receipts from a file or directly from their device’s camera into LiteFarm.

  • Users can assign documents a category and expiration date to make them easy to organize and find in a pinch.

  • LiteFarm will automatically include all documents related to organic certifications when users request their organic certification export (see the next section).


Will existing data be impacted?


No, documents are a new feature.


Where are we going next with Documents?


You tell us! LiteFarm is a collaborative community. Let us know what features you need here, and we’ll work together to make them happen.






Certifications


Users seeking organic crop certification will now have significant help from LiteFarm. The app now has the ability to capture all the inputs and outputs necessary to certify a farms’ crops as organic. For example, farmers in British Columbia using the iCertify system will be able to use LiteFarm to automatically generate Records D and I, populated with all the relevant records from their crops, crop management plans, and tasks.


Users seeking certifications outside British Columbia will be able to generate a generic version of the same information to assist in their own certification requirements.


  • LiteFarm will automatically generate a zipped folder based on a user-entered reporting period containing: a map of the farm, a record of all crops grown during the period, a record of all inputs (fertilizers, soil amendments, and cleaners) used on those crops and fields, any supporting documents from the Documents module (see above section), and a PDF of any additional questions requested directly from the farmer’s specified certifying body.

  • Certifying bodies will be able to add and change the certification questions LiteFarm asks producers code-free by utilizing our integration with SurveyStack.


Will existing data be impacted?


No existing data will be impacted, this is a new feature.


Where are we going next with Certifications?


Throughout the coming months and years, we’ll continue working with certifying bodies - agroecological, organic, and ecosystem services networks - all over the world to make sure the documentation created in LiteFarm matches their standards. We’ll also help train certification bodies in the use of SurveyStack to streamline their process for LiteFarm users.


A few closing remarks


From the beginning, LiteFarm has been a collaboration between farmers, scientists, and software professionals, and your input continues to be our guiding star. If you’re loving the app, think we could be doing better, or just want to share your story - please reach out at community@litefarm.org.


From all of us at LiteFarm, thank you for being a part of our community as we grow good food together!


Sincerely,

The LiteFarm Team

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