Greenhouse business and production management with your smartphone

Have you ever heard of the old adage to “work smarter, not harder?” Use your smartphone to do just that!

Photo 1. Back Pocket Grower’s ‘ppm to Recipe’ calculator tool, as seen on an iPhone.

Photo 1. Back Pocket Grower’s ‘ppm to Recipe’ calculator tool, as seen on an iPhone.

If you or your employees own a smartphone, consider using some of these applications to improve greenhouse business and production management.

Business management

A task list app is a must-have for busy people. Consider using an app that allows you to create multiple lists, multiple tasks, invite others to your task, prioritize tasks and set reminders. Some options for Android and Apple include Any.Do, Wunderlist or ToDoist. If you are involved in a lot of conference calls or phone interviews, consider an application that will record both sides of your phone call so that you or others can review it later. Such apps include Call Recorder and TapeACall Pro.

If you or employees travel a lot for work, consider an app that will allow you to record business expenses. Get one that will allow you to track mileage, time, travel costs, attached receipts (via your smartphone camera) and export to your email or other cloud storage area. In this way, as the expenses are incurred during travel, employees can record and take pictures of receipts, attach those receipts and export the travel record to the office staff who reimburse or document the business expenses. Some such applications include BizXpenseTracker, Business Expense Manager and Expensify.

Production

Pest and disease management are of the utmost importance in a production greenhouse. Michigan State University Extension gives guidance on chemical insect and disease controls for the greenhouse industry on two websites. While these websites are not an actual smartphone app, they are smartphone-optimized so that they feel like a native app. For more information on how to use either website on your phone, see the MSU Extension article “MSU floriculture insect wall chart and disease wall chart are updated for smartphones.”

Another website that looks like an app because it has been smartphone optimized is Back Pocket Grower. This website was developed primarily by the University of Florida with support from industry and other universities. Current content includes a crop guide for seedling plugs and learning modules on tissue culture and unrooted cuttings, root substrates and irrigation. It also contains a Tools section which currently includes four calculators. The first two calculators deal with calculating how much of a product to add to water to reach a desired ppm (Photo 1) and vice versa. A Fertilizer pH calculator will tell you what your fertilizing regime may do to a substrate pH over time with your given inputs.

Tracking of scouting, production and pesticide application data are very common tasks. Some apps that can help you move away from using paper and pencil to track these items are GroLog, PeRK and MyTraps. Grolog allows you to track items like pH, EC, plant height, greenhouse temperatures and the like. You can track individual crops or specific areas of the greenhouse and graph the trends over time (Photo 2). The PeRK (Pesticide Record Keeping) application, developed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, allows you to enter and track all pertinent pesticide recordkeeping requirements. It was designed for traditional field crops, but can be used for greenhouses too.

Phone app
Photo 2. An example of tracking substrate pH measurements over time in the GroLog application, as seen on an iPhone.

Another application that was designed for traditional field crops, but is still very pertinent for greenhouse use, is an app called MyTraps. This app allows you to keep track of your scouting efforts by recording which pests were found and where. The app also has graphical tracking so that you can visually see potential hot spots of pest activity.

When choosing a smartphone application of any kind, look at reviews of the product and how many people have reviewed it. Most apps mentioned here had at least a four star rating (out of five) and over 100 reviews each. In addition, most apps mentioned here were free or very low cost (less than $10). To purchase or get an app, see your phone manufacturer’s app site (for example, Google Play for Android and Apple App Store for iPhones).Old phone

Did you know?

Did you know that the first mobile phone was first used in 1973? It had a battery life of 30 minutes, took 10 hours to recharge and weighed 2.5 pounds. Mobile phones became widely available in the early 1980s. Smartphones, which combine telephony with computing, became widely available in the early 1990s and now Android and Apple dominate the smartphone market (over 90 percent of the market combined). Smartphone applications, or smartphone apps, are computer programs designed to specifically run on smartphones and the availability of these apps boomed in 2008. 

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