DriftWatch, a voluntary online registry program created by Purdue University Agriculture and Biological Engineering has been given a new home with a new company called FieldWatch, Inc., which will lead to a nationwide online crop registry for high-value pesticide sensitive crops.
The university’s successful Web-based program, launched in Indiana in 2008, has been effective in allowing both farmers and applicators to identify, map and communicate where high-value pesticide-sensitive crops are being grown as part of ongoing stewardship activities. DriftWatch has quickly caught the attention of other state departments of agriculture and has currently been adopted by nine states, primarily in the Midwest, plus Colorado and Montana. The respective state departments of agriculture provide a key leadership role in implementing and administering this effective stewardship communication tool.
To support the rapid growth outside of Indiana, Purdue collaborated with other agricultural stakeholder groups to create a non-profit corporation, FieldWatch, Inc., in December of last year. The new company, which is located off-campus at the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, IN, has since assumed the operational responsibilities of DriftWatch. This now includes directing the transition of the Website and database from the Purdue IT environment to a secure private IT services provider while also developing a national software platform from which to grow the utilization of the DriftWatch tool.
“Our vision is to become a nationally recognized specialty crop registry for producers, applicators and other key stakeholders across the country by being able to easily identify where sensitive sites are located as they conduct their other product stewardship activities,” said Reid Sprenkel, President/CEO of FieldWatch, who comes with 32 years experience in the agriculture industry.
With DriftWatch, producers of high-value specialty crops, such as tomatoes, fruit trees, grapes and vegetables, register their sites on-line and provide contact information about their operation. Likewise, pesticide applicators utilize the site to help determine the scope and location of specialty crops in their trade areas. DriftWatch provides the platform to facilitate better awareness, communication and interaction between all parties as one part of ongoing stewardship activities.
Along with the software development, Purdue was instrumental in DriftWatch’s successful launch and multi-state adoption. Purdue has retained an active role in helping to expand the operation nationally.
“We are pleased and fully support the decision to transition to FieldWatch, Inc.,” said Jay Akridge, Purdue’s Dean of Agriculture, who will continue on FieldWatch’s board as an ex-officio member. “We’re also pleased with the board’s approach in working to create a collaborative organization of stakeholders.”
Sprenkel says one priority of the organization is maintaining a balanced representation and viable path forward that is acceptable to all stakeholders with the Board of Directors structured for maintaining that balance. Of 17 board seats provided for in the By-Laws, 9 directors were appointed representing 4 stakeholder groups. Initial board members in addition to Dean Akridge include:
Producer Group: Steve Smith, Red Gold, and Levi Huffman, Huffman Farms; Applicator Group: Scott Schertz, Schertz Aerial Service, and Bob Wolf, Application Technology Expert; Manufacturing Group: Andrew Burchett, Monsanto, and Elisha Modisett Kemp, Dow AgroSciences; and Industry At-Large Group: Jean Payne, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, and Tami Griffin, Aon Risk Solutions.
Two board members spoke about their perspectives on the benefits of that balance. “Spray drift continues to be a threat to our producers each year, but DriftWatch has been very constructive in reducing the number and severity of instances,” said Red Gold’s Smith. “With Reid’s leadership and the cooperation of everyone on the board, I’m extremely happy that the move to FieldWatch will allow us to expand our program even further.”
Monsanto’s Burchett also weighed in. “Our customers produce row crops and specialty crops, so we’re very interested in everyone’s success,” he said. “This requires awareness and communication between applicators and farmers of all types of crops. The new FieldWatch organization created in collaboration with Purdue University provides a unique opportunity for a cross-section of agricultural interests to achieve this goal together.”